CAI raise awareness of the risk of wildfires

Northern Ireland has recently seen over 300 wildfires in just three weeks. These have the capability to devastate farmland, wildlife and protected habitats, as well as the lives of people living and working in rural communities. The risk at spring time is particularly prevalent as dead vegetation left over from the winter, higher temperatures and lower humidity levels can come together with deadly effect. The Countryside Alliance wishes to raise the awareness of the risk and potential damage of wildfires, and educate on the measures that can be taken to reduce those risks.

Wildfires in the UK are becoming more frequent. 2018 and 2019 together saw more damage caused by wildfires than the entirety of the previous decade, with nearly 50,000 hectares destroyed in over 200 wildfires. Their ability to start in rural locations, and under difficult conditions, is a threat that rural fire and rescue services have to be prepared for, and successful partnerships and groups have therefore been formed in high risk areas with great success, promoting cooperation and collaboration on wildfire issues. In this, gamekeepers and moorland managers have a particularly important role, as they are frequently the first to see and report wildfires, and their specialist equipment is invaluable in helping put them out.

Adrian Blackmore, Director of Shooting at the Countryside Alliance said: “Wildfires can have potentially devastating impacts on farming and local communities, wildlife and protected habitats. It is essential that all steps are taken to reduce the risk, this includes increasing education for those that enjoy our beautiful countryside. Raising awareness is the key to reducing risk.

“Remaining vigilant, especially during spells of hot dry weather like we have now, is essential. Furthermore, disposing of litter correctly, in particularly smoking materials, can help prevent wildfires. On top of this, at a time when our emergency services are already over-stretched due to Covid-19, we cannot risk jeopardizing their vital resources.”

DAERA and Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) are asking farmers and the public for their help during the current dry weather spell which has sparked a wildfire warning.
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.
If you do know people who are fire setting, let the PSNI know to assist with prosecutions.
If you are in the countryside:
• Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly
• Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows
• Avoid using open fires in the countryside
• Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

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