Farmers in Northern Ireland are being urged to remain vigilant to wildfires as the weather is unprecedently warm and dry for the time of year.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are asking everyone to remain alert to wildfires this spring.

DAERA Minister Edwin Poots said: “We all saw the damage that was done in the Mournes last year and must take action to avoid any repeat of this.

"Everyone needs to act responsibly and remain vigilant to wildfire."

Poots then warned about the consequences of starting fires. Any ignition source he said, may give rise to wildfire development. Such a fire can then spread quickly, especially in areas with dead grass, gorse, forestry and heath.

“Large areas can become engulfed in a very short period of time and may be hazardous to human life, property and wildlife," said Poots.

"Dealing with wildfires unnecessarily draws our resources away from where they are needed most - protecting our community. They also cause significant damage to wildlife and the environment," added Mark Smyth, group commander, NIFRS.

“With the dry weather set to continue over the next few days we are asking the public to support their firefighters by not starting fires in the countryside."

This comment comes as NIFRS confirmed yesterday (March 24) that a recently distinguished gorse fire in the Mourne mountains is thought to have been caused deliberately.

Deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the PSNI.

“The unpredictability of fire can also mean that those causing them may be putting their own lives at risk as well as the lives of the fire service personnel and other emergency services tasked to deal with them," added NIFRS chief superintendent Wendy Middleton.

Necessary precautions

Farmers and land managers are advised to take all necessary precautions to ensure that any prescribed burning within the remaining burn period (until April 14) does not turn into a wildfire incident.

When considering prescribed burning it must be done in a controlled manner and under careful supervision. Prior to any prescribed burn, Northern Irish farmers are advised to contact NIFRS headquarters to alert them and discuss the details and to subsequently notify NIFRS when burning operations have been completed.

The public are also urged to exercise common sense in the countryside: Never leave BBQs and camp fires unattended and when finished extinguish camp fires fully and take portable / disposable BBQs home after use and be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to block access for emergency vehicles.


DAERA, NIFRS and PSNI issued the following advice.

If you are in the countryside:

  • Avoid using open fires in the countryside;
  • Only use barbecues in designated areas and never leave them unattended;
  • Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents;
  • Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly;
  • Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
  • Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

If you are carrying out prescribed burning:

  • Burn within the legally permitted period for prescribed burning;
  • Ensure you have the necessary consents or permissions to carry out the prescribed burning;
  • Ensure NIFRS is notified of the burn and when the burn is completed;
  • Ensure necessary precautions are in place to contain and manage the burning.

If you see a fire:

  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service;
  • Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;
  • Leave the area as soon as possible;
  • If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.