Forest owners and managers, farmers and the general public are being warned that a high risk of wildfires exists during the current spell of good weather, and is expected to continue into the Easter weekend.

Tom Hayes, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, made the warning today. The Department has already issued a Condition Orange High Fire risk alert to the Forest Industry, and forest owners and forest managers in particular, are advised to check fire plans and fire lines, prepare fire suppression resources and to be vigilant regarding fire over the coming days.

The Minister stressed that vegetation in upland areas is currently highly flammable and that ‘high’ to ‘extreme’ fire risk conditions already exist in many parts of the country. He asked members of the public to be extremely careful if out and about over the coming days, saying “Many people will be outdoors enjoying the Irish countryside, from forest walks or family days out to hiking or camping trips. I would ask everyone to be alert to the danger of fire outdoors and in particular in or near our forest”.

Minister Hayes referred to a number of serious fires last year, which were a frightening reminder of the dangers of uncontrolled fires and the risks of damage to property, the environment and the threat to peoples’ lives that they can pose. Wildfire incidents also tie up the resources of fire and emergency services. The Minister added that “Illegal and irresponsible burning robs communities of vital Fire and Rescue Service response time, and puts lives at risk by causing delays in responses to other serious incidents, such as road traffic accidents, or a house fire”.

Minister Hayes asked members of the public to be especially vigilant and careful over the coming days and to report unattended fires to the Fire Services immediately, and to report suspicious behaviour or illegal burning to An Garda Síochana: “Please enjoy our countryside and forests, but remember to light barbeques in designated areas only, be certain they are extinguished completely before you leave and please bring all of your rubbish home with you”.