As warmer weather approaches, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is calling for the public to be vigilant to help prevent wildfires this summer.
Last year, NIFRS dealt with 1,239 wildfires. All of these wildfires were caused by human behaviour and are preventable if everyone is vigilant to the risks of wildfire.
Group Commander Ryan Thompson, NIFRS Lead Wildfire Officer, said:
“NIFRS responded to 1,239 preventable wildfires across Northern Ireland last year taking our Firefighters away from local towns and communities, where they would be ready to respond when they are needed most.
“It is encouraging that there has been a 37% drop in wildfires last year compared to the previous year, but we still need to be vigilant as every wildfire is completely avoidable.
“Wildfires are caused by human behaviour and so we are calling on the community to be alert to the risk of wildfires when enjoying the countryside. Don’t use open fires in the countryside and don’t be careless with smoking materials, barbeques or any other flames.
“However, often these fires are being started deliberately. Purposely setting a wildfire is a criminal offence, they can be devastating to the environment and wildlife, and they ultimately put people’s lives at risk. If you see someone deliberately setting a fire please report it immediately.
“Responding to wildfires also puts an added pressure on our Service and our partner agencies who are frequently required to respond alongside us. It is gruelling work for our Firefighters as it takes us hours, and sometimes even days, to put wildfires out.
“We want the public to enjoy our beautiful countryside and green spaces, but to do so responsibly and by following our safety advice.
“The responsibility of preventing wildfires belongs to all of us and we all need to do our part and stay vigilant.”
DO YOUR PART...
Follow this advice to prevent wildfires:
• Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly and don’t throw cigarette ends on the ground or out of car windows.
• Avoid using open fires in the countryside- an open fire can easily get out of control.
• Don’t leave bottles or glass in woodland or grassland. Take them home or dispose in a waste or recycling bin.
• Keep children away from lighters, matches and open fires.
• Only use barbeques in a suitable and safe area and never leave them unattended.
• Ensure barbeques are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents.
• Don’t attempt to tackle fires that can’t be extinguished with a bucket of water – leave the area as quickly as possible.
• If you see a fire in the countryside, report it to NIFRS immediately on 999.
• If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.
• Whilst there are benefits to controlled burning, NIFRS would remind land managers that it should only be used when all other methods of land management have been exhausted. This is due to the associated hazards and potential risk of starting a wildfire.
Number of wildfires NIFRS attended in the past 3 years: