A group of international experts has been called in to assist responders in tackling wildfires on the Sliabh Beagh mountains, which straddle the Monaghan, Fermanagh and Tyrone border, covering special areas of conservation (SAC).

The Collaborative Action for the Natura Network (CANN) project is working with experts in wildfire managements from the Pau Costa foundation in Catalonia, Spain, to develop a wildfire prevention plan.

Potential critical points on the mountains will be identified by Pau Costa experts, who will run simulations of fire behaviour on advanced computers.

Assisting responders

The first small dry spring burns of 2021 have already occurred on Sliabh Beagh and the new plan will enable responders to understand the fire risk and land management needed to alter the way fire spreads.

Sliabh Beagh site co-ordinator for the CANN project Rory Sheehan told the Irish Farmers Journal that a fire in 2017 destroyed over 700ha of SAC land on the mountains.

“As part of the project, we will be providing the Pau Costa team with information relating to historical fires and a complete map of all the different vegetation types on the mountain, along with their exact locations.

“This will allow the team to run simulations to establish how fast a fire can spread across the mountain and where best for the responders to stop it. We are looking at areas of high fuel loads and creating plans to reduce these.

“Low intensity grazing on the mountains has shown to be very positive and will help us to manage the constant fire risk during the summer months.”

Pau Costa’s plan will help to define how fires spread and model how this may change in the future as a result of climate change.