Second homeowner received bill of over €2,000 for gorse fires emergency call

April 10th, 2023 3:00 PM

By Siobhan Cronin

This photo of a charred frog was taken by a Mizen resident after the February gorse fire.

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A SECOND homeowner has come forward to express anger at having been invoiced for over €2,000 after calling 999 for the fire service during the recent gorse fires.

David Roche, who lives at Kealties on the Sheep’s Head, received a bill for €2,024 after the caretaker at his property rang emergency services on February 28th to say gorse fires were threatening several homes in the area.

Last week, The Southern Star reported on the €2,464 bill received by Goleen resident Birgit Eder after she rang for help on February 27th and a fire crew battled for hours to protect her home, and others nearby.

On Friday, a day after the Star published her story, Birgit was contacted by Cork County Council to say that after ‘reviewing the file’ it was decided that no charges should be levied.

TD Michael Collins (Ind) said this week that he believed she had been billed ‘in error’ and welcomed the news that the invoice had been withdrawn.

However, this week Sheep’s Head resident David Roche said that he has no intention of paying his bill, given that the fire crew did not even have to enter his land or property to fight the blazes.

The phone call had been made as a ‘civic duty’ when the fires were raging out of control on the peninsula. ‘But if they persist with this, then the next time I see a house on fire, I won’t be doing my civic duty,’ he told The Southern Star.

He has written to Cork County Council saying that the fire was started on commonage, pointing out: ‘You cannot charge me, or any other house owner in the area, for dealing with a fire on common land.’

He added that while he was abroad, a caretaker at the property alerted the emergency services on the night. ‘She did so out of a civic sense of duty,’ he wrote. ‘So did two neighbours who are prepared to testify that they did so, but were not billed for doing their civic duty.  So, not only have you been selecting individual targets to bill, which is discriminatory, but you are also seeking to charge people for doing their civic duty.’

Both Mrs Eder and Mr Roche said they had experience of gorse fires in previous years, and had called emergency services, but this is the first year they have ever been sent a bill.

In his letter to the local authority, Mr Roche added: ‘I am surprised that you have pursued this course.  The emergency services resources would be better spent catching and charging the arsonists responsible for these gorse fires rather than harassing their victims.   Your action makes it less probable that fires of any sort are reported to you in a timely fashion.

 I find your action all the more bizarre as I participated actively in the annual emergency services charity bike ride for many years to raise money for the fire service which you now seek to charge me for when I need it.  You are making yourselves no friends.’

Mrs Eder said that while she was delighted the bill has been cancelled, she would like to see the local authority actively pursuing those starting the fires which are damaging the landscape and killing wildlife.

She sent a photo a neighbour took of a frog burnt by the fires as an example of the horrendous damage the fires can inflict.

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