State spending €2m battling rise in forest fires
THE cost of replacing forests devastated in a huge increase in fires this year has soared to more than €2m.
State forestry agency Coillte has helped combat up to 350 fires and lost around 660 hectares of forestry in the first five months of the year.
One of the worst hit counties has been Kerry, where the fire services have been called out to 418 gorse fires so far this year -- more than double for the same period in 2009.
In Co Clare, fire services tended to 204 blazes between January 1 and June 1, compared to 36 for the same period in 2009.
In Co Offaly, fire services reported a 580pc increase in call-outs, from just 10 between January and May last year to 58 for the same period this year. In Wexford, there have been 70 call-outs to date, compared with 48 last year.
Fire services in Galway said there were 283 fires this year compared with 166 for the same period last year.
Coillte spokesman Tom Byrne said the spate of forest fires has been down to the dry cold spell in January, followed by a prolonged dry spell up until April. He also said fires were being lit in "a careless way" to burn off vegetation. It is illegal to set fires in growing vegetation from March 1 to August 31, and Mr Byrne urged people not to break the law.