Fire brigades in Mayo, Wicklow, Dublin, Sligo and Down were mobilised over the past week to fight wildfires, with the 21,22 and 23 March particularly eventful in the reporting of gorse and forest fires around the country.

It is understood that crews were still working on Friday in the Mourne Mountains, Co Down, to get a hill blaze under control but that all other reported incidents of wildfires have been extinguished.

Ox Mountains

Fire crews in counties Mayo and Sligo attended an unspecified number of gorse and mountain fires in the Churchpark, Corlee, Larganmore and Glanduff areas of the Ox Mountains, just north of Foxford, Co Mayo.

These fires burned on 22 and 23 March, with the total area of mountain burned not yet known by the fire service.

Crews from Swinford, Ballina, and Crossmolina attended the scenes of these fires, along with a crew which travelled from Enniscrone into Co Mayo to assist with the firefighting efforts, a representative from Mayo Fire Service told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Crews from Wicklow Fire Service extinguished a number of gorse fires around the Wicklow gap area.

Gardaí attended the scene of one of these fires on 22 March but only to direct traffic and left after the fire service brought the fire under control.

Howth Head

Another wildfire was attended by three crews from three different north Co Dublin fire stations on Howth Head.

The fire burned just over half a hectare of vegetation and was reported to have begun close to a car park for a walking trail.

Payments and penalties

Farmers with parcel of land fully or partially burned are encouraged to contact their adviser or consultant, as well as the Department of Agriculture, as lands burned outside of the permitted burning season are ineligible for payments.

The affected farmers may also face penalties for schemes, such as the Green Low-Carbon Agri-Environment Scheme (GLAS), should they be unable to carry out measures for the contracted period specified under the scheme.

Prosecutions can be made where there is evidence showing that a wildfire was started intentionally outside of the burning season. The closed season for burning vegetation is 1 March to 31 August.

Ignition sources

In February, the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue reminded the public of the importance of farmers in managing the risks associated with wildfires.

The management of lands and the control of fire-prone vegetation were among the activities carried out by farmers to help reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading during dry periods, he said.

“It is important to note that wildfire ignitions occur from a variety of sources, not just agriculture, and many fires have occurred on lands with no associated agricultural activity, including lands used for turf cutting, and public lands with open access used by the public for recreation,” the minister said.

“In 2021, some of the largest and most problematic fires occurred on non-agricultural land as a result of recreational land user activities and other non-agricultural sources,” he concluded.