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New consultation launched on how best to reduce the threat of wildfires in NI

A new consultation paper on how best to reduce the threat of wildfires in the countryside has been launched in Northern Ireland.
Marie Louise McConville

THE public are to be consulted for their views on how to reduce the threat of wildfires in the countryside in Northern Ireland.

The`Reducing Wildfires in the Countryside' consultation was launched yesterday by the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) and the Department of Justice (DoJ).

Last year, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) attended 2,231 gorse fires around the Northern Ireland countryside.

In the majority of these cases, the fires had been started deliberately.

David Small, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA), said wildfires "put the safety of firefighters, the public and property at risk".

"They also have a devastating impact on local wildlife," he said.

"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".

Mr Small added: "...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 would encourage everyone with a genuine interest in protecting our environment to engage with this consultation. Working together we can make a positive difference".

The consultation, which is open until March 16, is available on the Daera website.

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