Wildfire Damage Is Lasting Says DAERA Minister

Wildfires cause lasting damage to local habitats says DAERA Minister Edwin Poots.

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Wildfires cause lasting damage to local habitats says DAERA Minister Edwin Poots.

Environment minister Edwin Poots has again appealed for the public to not light fires when visiting the countryside.

As we head out of lockdown and over the Twelfth holidays, more people will be venturing back into the countryside and the Mournes and other upland and wooded areas are particularly vulnerable to wildfires.

During a recent visit to Armoy, Minister Poots said: “The level of lasting damage caused to natural habitat and associated wildlife by wildfire is shocking and unnecessary. 

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots MLA (left) visits an area of heather habitat recently damaged by wildfire at Slieveanorra & Croaghan Nature Reserve (ASSI) near Altarichard in Armoy. He was shown the damage done by Derek Anderson, local land manager and gamekeeper (Blakiston Houston) and local farmer Trevor Knox.

“I came to see for myself the consequences of wildfire here at  Altarichard in north Antrim, where two fires in recent months badly damaged heather habitat and cost the local environment dearly.

“The Department recognises the need to address the issue of wildfires. One element will be the establishment of Local Wildfire Groups and encouraging the development of Wildfire Response Plans and Wildfire Management Plans.”

Minister Poots added: “I want to again appeal to everyone that no one should start a fire in the countryside.

“Wildfires in this country are not natural, being started either deliberately, or by reckless burning or disposal of flammable vegetation or waste material.

A fire last month in Leitrim near Castlewellan caused expensive damage to flora and fauna.

“The public also have a huge responsibility when visiting the country side to take their rubbish home with them. Wildfires could result in tragedy for people caught in the line of a fire – don’t burn waste or vegetation and don’t fly-tip or drop litter.”

Paddy Gallagher, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS), added: “We are calling on the community to act responsibly by not lighting any unnecessary fires in the countryside.

“We are asking people to be careful when disposing of their rubbish, using portable BBQs, and disposing of cigarette butts in the countryside- as they have the potential to spread and cause devastating wildfires, which puts unnecessary pressure on our Firefighters.”

“The public are reminded that deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the emergency services immediately,” added Mr Gallagher.

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.

Fires that impact on designated sites such as an Areas of Special Scientific Interest and their features may be an offence if consent has not been obtained from DAERA.

Fly-tipping and dropping litter are also offences.