The Minister for Agriculture has warned of the dangers that can come of fires being lit in the countryside during the spring and summer.
The Department issued a reminder to landowners that it is illegal to carry out any burning of land between March and the end of August.
Minister McConalogue emphasised that farmers have an essential role to play in reducing the risk of fires through land management.
Reducing and managing vegetation such as gorse, heather and purple moor grass is critical in areas at high-risk of fire.
“Given the inherent fire risk in spring, it is important that no one should start an illegal fire in the countryside and give rise to unnecessary diversions of vital emergency service resources.”
“Late spring wildfires can put homes and livelihoods at direct risk and cause considerable disruption to rural communities, wildlife and habitats. We have seen this unfold for real in our rural communities in recent years.”
“We are asking for the cooperation of all countryside users in the prevention of wildfires and to join in the protection of these lands over the coming months.”
The department has now activated its Fire Danger Rating System for the season and the Minister advises that forest owners and managers should check and update fire plans and other relevant contingencies such as insurance, access, water points, and private helicopter contracts, so as to be prepared well in advance of high fire risk phases.
Rural dwellers should also assess wildfire risks to their properties and prepare accordingly. Dangerous flammable vegetation immediately around homes and other assets in high-risk areas should be removed.
There has been a very significant increase in the use of outdoor amenities and forest recreation sites by the public in recent years which is to be welcomed.
Forest visitors are reminded to behave responsibly, to observe relevant local bye-laws and to park considerately so as not to impede access of emergency vehicles to incidents.
Penalties for illegal burning can include fines and imprisonment from prosecution, and such land might will no longer be eligible for payment under the Basic Income Support for Sustainability scheme and other area-based schemes.