Farm Ireland

Friday 22 March 2019

Gorse fires destroy up to 5,000ha

Scene as Firemen fight a large forest/bog fire near Cloonbonniffe, Castlerea, Co.Roscommon on Sunday evening
Scene as Firemen fight a large forest/bog fire near Cloonbonniffe, Castlerea, Co.Roscommon on Sunday evening

Ken Whelan

Over 700 gorse fires were recorded throughout the country during the recent dry spell with the overall burned area provisionally totalling 5,000ha, of which 300ha was commercial forestry. Kerry and Roscommon were the worst affected counties.

A Forestry Service spokesman told the Farming Independent this week that 'they had more than enough of gorse fires'' over the past few weeks and he urged farmers and plantation owners to ensure that their firefighting equipment and fire alert plans were functional.

Donal Whelan of the Irish Timber Growers Association said the cost of dealing with gorse fire outbreaks, whether on farm or at plantation level, was horrendous and could often run into six figures.


"In the case of a 40ha young forest (under-10 years) the loss in terms of timber would come out at around €500/ha but the cost of replacing the forest would run to €3,500/ha," Mr Whelan said.

"Add to this the cost the farmer or plantation owner has to pay the fire services to put out the fire and you are talking about serious money," he added.

"And you must remember that forest reconstitution grants are no longer available and should a farmer or plantation owner decide to switch the forest land to some other agricultural use they will have to repay all the grants and premiums they received on the destroyed forest back to the Department of Agriculture," he pointed out.

Once a forest develops its canopy, after approximately 10 years, they are safer fire-wise.

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Whelan's advice is simple: "buy insurance".

He also advises both big and small forest owners to have a fire prevention plan in place and to ensure that a caretaker is watching over the forest if they live away from the forest.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said forest owners should maintain a "high level of vigilance throughout the remaining fire season. The main period when the risk of fire is at its peak ends in June when vegetation greens up fully. But even then the risk of fire is always there," the spokeswoman added.

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