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The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) are seeking the views of the public and stakeholders on how to reduce the threat of wildfires in the countryside.
In 2017, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) attended 2,231 gorse fires. In the majority of cases these fires were started deliberately.
Launching the consultation ‘Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside’, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) David Small said: “Wildfires put the safety of firefighters, the public and property at risk. They also have a devastating impact on local wildlife. Several important nature conservation sites, including Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI), were impacted by the 2017 wildfires with significant damage occurring to habitats and species. In addition, fighting wildfires is resource intensive and could potentially impact upon the ability of the fire service to respond to other serious incidents.
“The NI Wildfire Stakeholders Group, which consists of representatives from government agencies, environmental Non-Government Organisations (ENGOs) and landowners, considers that the best way forward to tackle the issue of wildfires in NI is to have an agreed and co-ordinated strategic approach which we can all jointly work towards. This will help to identify and prioritise key initiatives to help reduce the number of wildfires in the countryside and to reduce the impacts on the environment and communities when such incidents occur.
“This public engagement is a vital exercise as it will raise awareness and help inform the development of this strategic approach, and I would encourage people to respond so that we can reduce this threat together.”
Anthony Harbinson, Director of Safer Communities at the Department of Justice said: “Anyone involved in illegally setting wildfires in the countryside is breaking the law. They risk not only their own safety, but that of others. They also present a very real risk to property and threaten wildlife.“I commend those involved in the work of Project ‘Strategically Addressing Wildfire Arson’ (SAWA) and I would encourage everyone with a genuine interest in protecting our environment to engage with this consultation. Working together we can make a positive difference.”
''Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside'' is currently open for responses until Friday 16 March 2018 on the nidirect Citizen Space webpage: