Uncontrolled fires caused more than €7.5m of damage to Irish forestry in 2011, one of the worst years on record.
With the legal burning period now open, landowners are being warned about the dangers of uncontrolled burning.
"Fire is a powerful but dangerous land management tool which needs to be used with skill and understanding if it is not to do more harm than good," said Teagasc countryside management expert, Catherine Keena.
"In the right hands and with the right preparation, fire can enable rapid and cost-effective management of unwanted vegetation.
"But uncontrolled burning leads to the destruction of fragile habitats and can place lives and property at risk."
Ms Keena was speaking after a series of countryside management events organised for farmers in Mayo, Waterford and Tipperary at the start of the burning season.
She told farmers that the preferred method of control for upland vegetation was grazing at a sustainable stocking rate which does not result in over- or undergrazing.
However, where vegetation has become too strong and mechanical cutting is not an option, controlled burning during the burning season may be warranted.
None the less, landowners must adhere to the correct principles of controlled burning.
"First, it is illegal to light fires between March 1 and August 31," Ms Keena told farmers.
"Secondly, a programme of burning on a number of small areas rather than one large area will result in a patchwork pattern that can benefit grazing and wildlife such as grouse.
"No more than 0.5ha should be burning at any one time."
Careful planning and consultation is needed when burning vegetation and should include the following steps:
nBoth the local Fire Service and the environment section of your local county council must be informed of your plans.
nIf you intend burning within one mile of woodland, you must notify the owner and your local garda station.
nWithin designated areas such as Special Areas of Conservation or Natural Heritage Areas, contact NPWS to check if permission is needed for your site.
nBurning should only be carried out by persons with adequate training, knowledge and experience in managing safe and controlled burning operations.
Farmers who attended the recent course in Rathgormack, Co Waterford, held in conjunction with the Fire Service, will receive a Fire Awareness Certificate from Coillte Training.
- Caitriona Murphy
Read the article @ The Irish Independent
Posted by BPS Town Planning Consultants