Bill of €2,464 to save home from gorse fire

March 31st, 2023 5:34 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

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Goleen resident shocked at fee for dialling 999 to get help to save her home from the flames

A GOLEEN resident who called the fire service during the recent gorse fires because her home was in danger, has been landed with a bill of over €2,400.

Birgit Eder says she is furious because she didn’t start the fire and is convinced her house could have gone up in flames if she hadn’t made the call when she did.

The German native, who has lived in Goleen since 1988, says the bill, for the Dunmanway Fire Brigade, which came from Cork County Council, is very unfair, given the seriousness of the fires.

‘I was so upset and frightened, because the fire came so close to my house,’ she said. But she said that she had no part in starting any fire and feels it is very unfair to have to bear this massive cost.

‘Last year the fire was right up to my house, and I called the fire brigade who came from Schull, but I got no bill,’ she explained.

‘Both times I rang 999 but you don’t get to choose where the fire brigade comes from. This time they were all so busy so they sent the crew from Dunmanway,’ she explained.

And while the fire was across the road from her home this year, the strong winds and high flames meant her property was in danger of catching fire at any minute, so she felt she had no choice but to call for help.

‘I could hear the fire from my house, and it was so bright. My neighbour, who had sheep on the hill, was in his field trying to stop it. He was out all the night before and all that night too. If people want to clear the land, then they need to stay with it and control it. The hill behind my house is all black now, it looks horrible,’ said Birgit.

When she returned from a recent trip she was horrified to see the letter, stating it was an invoice from Cork County Council, for a ‘gorse fire’, for €2,464. The letter says the bill covers a period from 19:01 until 22:45 on February 27th. It even states that the fire was ‘coming very close to the house’.

Birgit said friends nearby had to flee their home because it is a wooden construction and they also made a 999 call, but got no bill.

She said the constant threat of gorse fires on the Mizen every year is now making winter ‘a nightmare’ and she worries that some year her home will not escape. She emailed the Council this week, pointing out that official regulations for fire service charges state no charges should apply for ‘incidents where … it is established that a fire has occurred on commonage’.

So far, she has not received a reply. Cork County Council confirmed to The Southern Star that they had sent the bill, and added: ‘Where fire charges apply, they will issue to the beneficiary of the service, which is not necessarily the person who makes the call. 

‘Invoices are raised based on available information. Fire charges will be reviewed if new information relevant to the charge is provided.’

Deputy Michael Collins has urged Cork County Council to engage with Birgit on what he called a ‘very unfair’ bill, saying that people should not be discouraged from phoning 999 in order to protect their homes, or the homes of their neighbours, from gorse fires.

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