Uncontrolled fires pose a danger to wildlife, property, infrastructure, the environment and potentially, human life. They can be a significant and prolonged draw on fire service resources and may compromise our ability to respond to other incidents such as road traffic collisions or domestic fires.
The burning of waste is an illegal practice and is an offence under the Waste Management Act 1996, the Air Pollution Act 1987 and the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009.
There is an exemption under the Waste Management (Prohibition of Waste Disposal by Burning) Regulations 2009 that allows farmers to dispose of the following by burning: untreated/uncontaminated wood, trees, trimmings, leaves, bushes or similar materials generated by agricultural practices.
In accordance with the regulations, a farmer must notify the local authority in advance of the intention to burn agricultural green waste. ‘Notice to Burn’ forms are available to download on the following link: Notice to Burn Form (pdf). This form may also be obtained on request from Cork County Council’s anti-litter unit by emailing the following address email@example.com or by phoning 021/4285417 (9am-5pm, Mon-Fri).
In addition, a farmer must call 999 or 112 immediately prior to conducting a controlled burn so as to ensure that the Fire Service is not needlessly mobilised to the fire as a result of calls from concerned members of the public. The emergency call centre will only accept calls from those who have notified the local authority accordingly and are otherwise entitled to burn agricultural green waste. A follow-up call must be made upon completion of the controlled burn.
Note: Attendance by the fire service at such incidents attracts a service charge of €660 per hour per fire brigade.
Burning of wastes arising from agricultural activities should only be undertaken as a final measure following adherence to the following waste hierarchy:
- Waste arisings are reduced in accordance with best agricultural practice.
- Waste is reused where practicable.
- Waste is recycled through shredding and used as compost or wood chippings.
- Waste is salvaged for use as fuel where practicable.
The following fire safety precautions should be considered if controlled burning is necessary:
- Burning should be commenced as early as possible in the day.
- A suitable fire break should be made around the area/waste to be burned.
- Check the weather forecast and do not burn in exceptionally dry conditions.
- If possible, have a sufficient mobile water supply available.
- If fires get out of control and poses a risk to buildings or woodlands, call the Fire Brigade immediately by dialling 999 or 112.
- Before leaving the area, make sure that the fire is completely out.
The Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine have published a 'Code of Practice for Prescribed Burning' which is available to download on the following link: Prescribed Burning Code of Practice Ireland (pdf).
It is important to note that it is illegal to burn any living vegetation between 1st March and 31st August each year under the Wildlife Act 1976.
What can I do to prevent uncontrolled fires?
Uncontrolled fires can happen due to a range of human activity such as dropping cigarettes, dumping rubbish, losing control of barbeques and bonfires, and in a small number of cases fires being started deliberately.
Below is a list of measures that can be taken to prevent uncontrolled fires:-
- Smoking - When driving, walking or having a picnic, ensure that cigarettes and other smoking materials are fully extinguished and disposed of carefully.
- Barbeques – When lighting barbeques keep them under close supervision and don’t let them get out of hand. Ensure they are fully extinguished and disposed of carefully after use. Note - on most lands it is illegal to light any fire, including barbeques, without the permission of the landowner.
- Litter- Please take your litter home with you. Even a discarded glass bottle can start a fire.
What can I do to protect my property?
For anyone living in an area that is prone to uncontrolled fires, you should remove gorse and any dead vegetation from around buildings, oil tanks, fences, forestry and poles in order to maintain a defensible zone and reduce the risk of loss or damage to property. Please click the following link for further advice: Prepare for Wildlife.