Several gorse fires blaze in Leinster today as heatwave continues

Published by Niall Sargent on

June 28th, 2018

A number of upland fires are currently blazing in the Leinster area, with some believed to have been started deliberately, a senior fireman said today.

Speaking on RTE Radio One this morning, Dublin Fire Brigade Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Dennis Keeley, told presenter Sean O’Rourke that gorse fires are active in countries Meath, Carlow and Wexford.

He said that while there are no fires currently burning on the “back of a very busy week and a half” in Co Dublin, a family had a lucky escape yesterday evening in the Dublin Mountains.

The family, he told RTE, were trapped on the Old Military Road after a change in wind direction reduced visibility on the road. The family were forced to abandon their vehicle, which was later found burned out by the fire.

Mr Keeley said that members of the public need to remain “vigilant” and avoid starting barbeques in woods, uplands areas or near grassy areas and to take away all rubbish, “particularly glass objects”.

He added that some recent fires are believed to have been “started deliberately”, pointing to anecdotal reports of young children starting the fires.

Last week, firefighters responded to a grass fire in Portmarnock that the Dublin Fire Brigade believe was “started maliciously”.

Last year, the Irish Wildlife Trust wrote to the European Commission about Ireland’s failure to tackle illegal wildfires and protect threatened wildlife in our uplands as required under the Birds and Habitats Directives.

In its formal complaint to the Commission, the conservation charity presented evidence of 97 illegal wildfires started between 24 March and 22 May 2017 across 19 counties.

It is currently an offence under the Wildlife Act to burn any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated from 1 March to 31 August.

Forty per cent of the fires occurred in sites with special protection or conservation status, including Killarney National Park, Wicklow Mountains National Park and the Ox Mountains in Co Sligo.

Earlier this week, the Department of Agriculture issued a Condition Red Forest Fire Danger warning for the remainder of the week. Condition Red is the highest level and is rare in Ireland.

In a statement, the department called on the farming community to be “particularly vigilant” with regard to the use of machinery around hay meadows, and to “refrain from the use of fire on cultivated farmland”.

Under extreme Fire Risk Conditions any ignition may give rise to “rapid and unpredictable wildfire development and spread”, the department said in a statement.

“Fires at this time of year can also have a devastating impact on wildlife and habitats, especially fledgeling birds and young mammals living in affected areas,” the statement continued.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London