Limerick Fire and Rescue Service has launched an awareness campaign in relation to the dangers posed by illegal burning and forest, bog and gorse fires.

The Fire Service has issued the warning following serious wildfires in Donegal and Galway on Easter Monday and two years on from Ireland’s worst ever wildfires when thousands of hectares of land were destroyed across much of the country. 

The highest risk period for wildfires occurs between March and June, when ground vegetation is dead and dry following the winter period.

“The current dry spell of weather will do little to reduce this risk although we are hopeful of some respite by the weekend,” explained Paul McMahon, Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer.

Mr. McMahon continued: “We would like to remind landowners across Limerick that it is an offence under the Wildlife Act to burn growing vegetation between 1st March and 31st August in any year, on any land not then cultivated. The sad fact is that if this simple rule was adhered to, many costly and dangerous wildfires would be avoided. On Easter Monday night, for example, there were three separate blazes in Connemara which spread quickly due to the dry vegetation and strong easterly winds which fed the blaze. Meanwhile, an estimated 16,000 hectares were destroyed nationally in 2011 resulting in €20 million in costs and damages.”

Commenting on the issue of backyard and uncon-trolled burning, Mr. Mc Mahon said: “Uncontrolled burning can result in loss of life as well as damage to property. It is often mistakenly seen as a cheap method of managing waste and it is presumed not to be harmful to the environment, but nothing could be further from the truth. Controlled burning should follow the procedure of ensuring that any burning is pre-planned and takes place in a controlled fashion. The Fire Service must also be notified through the 999/112 system prior to any burning taking place.”