Extreme fire risk warning issued for this weekend

May 29th, 2020 4:28 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Bantry fire fighters recently tackling one of several gorse fires that took them away from their other Covid-19 duties. (Photo: Bantry Fire Brigade)

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A CONDITION Red – extreme fire risk warning has been issued, and will be in effect throughout the bank holiday weekend, with drone technology being utilised to combat the spread of forest and wildfires.

The Condition Red warning arises from current weather pattern, and an extreme forest fire risk is deemed to exist in all areas where hazardous fuels such as dead grasses, heather and gorse exists.

This is the second year that the technology is being used to monitor designated ‘hot spots’ across the country.The drones are equipped with cameras that peer through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other weather variables that affect how fires spread. They can capture continuous footage of areas deemed as high risk and spot small fires that otherwise could not have been detected until they had become much larger and harder to contain.

Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, TD, has highlighted the work of her Department’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) as it continues its successful partnership with Coillte, Ireland’s semi-state commercial forestry company, in using drone technology.

'I want to take this opportunity to thank the staff of the NPWS who, as essential workers, have been working hard protecting our natural habitats throughout the pandemic response. I am delighted that Coillte are joining us in this initiative to help combat the spread of forest and hill fires during this high-risk period,' said the Minister

'Wildfires are not a natural phenomenon in Ireland; the main challenge is to encourage members of the public, including landowners, farmers and recreational users of publicly accessible land, to act responsibly at all times, to be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, to be mindful of the need to protect property, both publicly owned and privately owned, and to appreciate the value of our natural heritage, particularly in our National Parks, Nature Reserves and designated lands.'

As well as welcoming the ‘eyes in the sky’, Minister Madigan also encouraged the public to be eyes on the ground.

'Even planned and/or 'controlled' burning can get out of hand very quickly so it is critically important that every member of society realises the damage that can be caused to property and, indeed, the health and welfare of family, neighbours and the wider community, and the responding emergency services. I would urge anyone with any information on fires, no matter how trivial it may seem, to pass any information on to the Gardaí or to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department.

With the forest fire weather warning still in place, Coillte and NPWS are asking people to remain vigilant and report any fires they see to the local fire brigade.

Coillte recommend the following steps to prevent forest fires at this time;

  • DO NOT light fires and be careful of all activity involving fires
  • REPORT any suspicious activity you may observe
  • REPORT any forest fires you see to local fire brigade
  • DO NOT approach forest fires under any circumstance, they are extremely dangerous
  • KEEP access points and forest entrances clear for emergency services

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