24 March 2022
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are asking everyone for their help during the current dry spring weather. As the dry weather continues, DAERA, NIFRS and PSNI are advising visitors to rural areas as well as residents to be vigilant for wildfires.
The DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said:
“We all saw the damage that was done in the Mournes last year and must take action to avoid any repeat of this. Everyone needs to act responsibly and remain vigilant to wildfire.
“Wildfires are a risk to life and property while causing extensive environmental damage and diverting the emergency services resources away from where they are most needed, protecting and serving the community.
“With the current conditions set to last into next week, any ignition source in hazardous fuels may give rise to wildfire development. Such a fire can spread very quickly, especially in areas with dead grasses, gorse, forestry and heather. Large areas can become engulfed in a very short period of time and may be hazardous to human life, property and wildlife.”
Group Commander Mark Smyth, NIFRS, said:
“With the dry weather set to continue over the next few days we are asking the public to support their firefighters by not starting fires in the countryside. Dealing with wildfires unnecessarily draws our resources away from where they are needed most – protecting our community. They also cause significant damage to wildlife and the environment.”
Chief Superintendent Wendy Middleton said:
“Gorse fires have the potential to cause widespread damage to the environment and harm to wildlife, as well as threatening homes, farms and the people living in those areas.
“The unpredictability of fire can also mean that those causing them may be putting their own lives at risk as well as the lives of the fire service personnel and other emergency services tasked to deal with them.
“There can also be untold consequences to tying up crucial emergency resources that may be needed elsewhere.”
Farmers and land managers are advised to take all necessary precautions to ensure that any prescribed burning within the remaining burn period (until 14th April) does not turn into a wildfire incident. When considering prescribed burning it must be done in a controlled manner and under careful supervision. Prior to any prescribed burn you are advised to contact NIFRS headquarters (02892664221) to alert them and discuss the details. You should notify NIFRS when you have completed your burning operations.
The public are also urged to exercise common sense in the countryside. Never leave BBQs and camp fires unattended and when finished extinguish camp fires fully and take portable / disposable BBQs home after use and be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to block access for emergency vehicles.
The public are also reminded that deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the PSNI immediately.
Wildfires are not natural, they are almost always started by humans either deliberately or through carelessness. They put lives at risk, destroy our surroundings and the wildlife in them, and are a real cost to society.
Please heed the following advice:
If you are in the countryside:
- Avoid using open fires in the countryside;
- Only use barbecues in designated areas and never leave them unattended;
- Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents;
- Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly;
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
- Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.
If you are carrying out prescribed burning:
- Burn within the legally permitted period for prescribed burning;
- Ensure you have the necessary consents or permissions to carry out the prescribed burning;
- Ensure Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service are notified of the burn and when the burn is completed;
- Ensure necessary precautions are in place to contain and manage the burning.
If you see a fire:
- If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service;
- Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;
- Leave the area as soon as possible;
- If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.