At least 50 illegal fires located by satellite – Minister

Michael Creed

Statement on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed TD and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, on recent Gorse Fires

Minister for Agriculture Food & Marine, Michael Creed TD and Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD wish to remind landowners and the public that it is an offence under Section 40 of the Wildlife Act, 1976 (amended by Section 46 of the Wildlife Act, 2000) to burn, from 1st March to 31st August in any year, any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated. Individuals who are found to burn vegetation within that prohibited period are liable to prosecution by An Garda Síochána or by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Commenting on the recent incidence of gorse fires throughout the Country, Minister Creed said; “The Department of Agriculture has issued a number of Fire Danger Notices to the forestry sector since the beginning of March, including elevating the risk to ‘Red’ on 2 May, in advance of the recent spate of fires. These fires are monitored through a combination of EU Copernicus and US NASA data streams which have detected over 50 illegal fire locations using satellite data up to 21 April 2017. An indication of the scale of the problem is that this number represents just under half of the total known fire locations to that date. 

“My Department operates a Basic Payment Scheme and other area-based schemes wherein applicants are obliged to comply with Cross Compliance, including requirements in relation to the burning of vegetation. I would like to remind farmers that where land has been burned, it is not generally eligible for Basic Payment*. This is clearly stated in my Departments literature on land eligibility issued to farmers”.

Minister Humphreys added; “Deliberate or uncontrolled fires can destroy habitats, wildlife, farm land and farm structures and can threaten homes and lives. There is a huge cost to this reckless behaviour not just to physical property, but also the cost of disruption to normal emergency services operations. 

“The Government will continue to work closely with the emergency services, local authorities, An Garda Síochána and the National Parks and Wildlife Service, as well as with farm organisations and the forestry industry itself to try to address the problem of uncontrolled fires and will act on any incidents cross reported to it, as appropriate.

“I would urge all forest owners, farmers, rural dwellers and other countryside users to be vigilant to the threat of fire, to report any suspicious activity to An Garda Síochána, and to report any uncontrolled or unattended fires immediately to the Fire and Emergency Services via 112/999 service”.

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