'Operation WildFire' to investigate wildfires started deliberately in Northern Ireland
A new joint operation to investigate hundreds of wildfires started deliberately in Northern Ireland’s countryside last month has been launched today.
Operation WildFire brings together experts from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) to investigate in more depth a number of the recent wildfires.
They will be assisted by a team of international wildfire investigators from the European Forest Institute and European Forest Risk Facility (FRISK).
Many of the recent fires spread rapidly due to the dry ground conditions, putting the public, property, firefighters and important habitats and species at risk.
The initial work of Operation WildFire will be to determine the origin of a number of the recent fires and their causes.
This is an essential first step in any successful fire investigation and can help lead to prosecutions should the fires be shown to be caused by human action.
Welcoming the new joint operation, Colum McDaid who leads on wildfire control initiatives in NIEA said: “The vigorous and thorough investigation of wildfires is the key to catching arsonists, and can be critical in identifying serial arsonists before they can move on to bigger targets.
“The law states that burning of vegetation such as heather, gorse, whin or fern must not be carried out between 15 April and 31 August, and only carried out at other times of the year under controlled and expert supervision. Additional offences can be caused by fires that impact on designated sites such as Areas of Special Scientific Interest and their features. Landowners are required to obtain consent from DAERA for prescribed burning within designated sites.”