New Approach Needed for Forest Fires: Ó Murchú

The recent fires in the Cooley Mountains, and the need for a co-ordinated, multi-agency response to any future incidents, were raised last week in Leinster House by Dundalk TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.

The Sinn Féin TD was speaking during statements on climate change and he said that the government has to recognise that forest fires, such as those that devastated swathes of the Cooley Mountains earlier this month, were going to be more frequent.

Mr Ó Murchú said consideration needs to be given to a more ambitious afforestation plan, including on State-owned lands, while also offering farmers more imaginative schemes and incentives for growing trees.

But the recent fires, which burned for over a week, ‘highlighted the need for a co-ordinated and planned State response’.

He said: ‘Louth County Council Fire and Rescue Service did incredible work in battling the fires on the Cooley Mountains. They worked so hard, day and night, to control the blaze. There was assistance from the Coillte helicopter, but the Air Corps made the difference on the uplands and brought it under control, eventually ensuring it was put out.

‘It has highlighted the need for a multi-agency, cross-border response to future fires and to that end, I am writing to the government to outline some of the ways this can happen. I have discussed some aspects of this with Cllr. Antóin Watters, Louth County Council, the fire service and others who agree that a forest fire plan needs to be put in place to minimise the damage caused by these incidents.

‘There was huge pressure on Louth’s fire service that week with multiple call-outs to other blazes in Dundalk, which they had to deal with while battling the fires on the mountains.

‘At a local level, there also needs to be better signage at forest parks and mountain walk entrances in order to ensure that people are fully aware of the damage that lighting a barbeque or carelessly discarding a cigarette can do when, because of climate change, there is less rain and the gorse is far drier.

‘This would be in addition to State-wide fire prevention measures, following best practice, and including the creation of firebreaks.’