Donegal County Council’s Fire Service has responded to 179 wildfires since the end of March. And yesterday councillors in Inishowen urged local people to be ‘very vigilant’ in the weeks ahead.
Fine Gael’s John Ryan said the fires put lives, property, farm animals and local wildlife at huge risk.
He told the Journal: “People might find it hard to believe that the fire service has already been out so many times in little over a month but it has been uncharacteristically dry and cold and while many of these fires are accidental a substantial number are malicious.
“For many people, not just the farming community, these fires are a real worry and concern.”
Colr Ryan’s council colleague, Jack Murray concurred: “Last year, many areas of the county were devastated by gorse fires - some which were started deliberately.”
The Sinn Fein councillor stated: “I am extremely concerned at the number of gorse fires already this year. As well as the obvious damage that they can cause to property and the risk to safety, they are also racking up a huge bill for the county council.The hundreds of thousand of euros that are spent fighting these fires could be used to fix roads, support community groups or carry out repairs to council housing.”
Colr Mickey Doherty said he felt very strongly about the issue, stating that homes and lives were being put at risk often by carlessness and sometimes by vandals.
The Fine Gael man said: “This is a major issue for the people of Inishowen. Some young thug thinks it’ll be funny to start a fire but what’s a bit of fun can have dire consequences. For starters fire fighters are exposed to real danger if they get out of control.
“At a time of economic hardship too the Council and the fire service can be doing without big bills for putting out fires.”
All three councillors paid tribute to the hundreds of fire-fighters and thousands of local people who have taken huge personal risk to tackle the fires.
The council issued a statement at the weekend appealing to landowners and members of the public to exercise caution and to report any unattended fires immediately by dialing 999 or 112.