Tuesday, 13 July 2021
Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government
364. To ask the Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government if the recent fires such as that on Howth Hill requires any rethinking of protection measures or the provision of resources to contain such instances when they occur. [37896/21]
The provision of a fire service and the assessment of the requirements arising, including the nature of the fire hazards and the probable incidence and extent of fires, in its functional area is a statutory function of individual fire authorities under Section 10 of the Fire Services Act 1981.
Despite the best efforts of communities, wildland fires can occur in certain areas of the country during dry periods. The Department of Agriculture monitors conditions and issues colour-coded warnings during periods when wildland fire risk is high. Despite the success of "controlled burning" initiatives, regrettably, wildfires can also occur as a result of carelessness and deliberate setting of fires.
The priority of fire services in responding to wildland fires is the protection of life and health in local communities. Smoke can impact significantly on those with underlying breathing issues. An important secondary objective is working with local communities to try to protect infrastructure, houses and other property, as well as conservation areas, which are threatened. Fire services work with a range of bodies including National Parks and Wildlife Services and Coillte as well as farming communities to minimise damage where it is safe to do so. Fighting wildland fires is difficult and, in all cases, fire services will prioritise safety of community and emergency responders.
As well as the normal fire service response arrangements through which an incident commander can request additional resources in light of the situation, there are arrangements for mutual support across local authority fire services. Also, the response to wildfires is supported by well established arrangements whereby local authority fire services may, through the National Directorate for Fire and Emergency Management (NDFEM) in my Department and working with the Department of Defence, request the assistance of the Defence Forces. The support provided to local authority fire services by the Defence Forces in wildland fire-fighting has been effective and is greatly appreciated.
Considerable inter-agency efforts have been made to reduce the incidence of wildland fires, led by my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. As noted above his Department monitors conditions and issues wildland fire warning notices. That Department has led an inter-agency review which has helped enhance the mitigation of wildland/ gorse fires. It is imperative that communities and relevant bodies continue to work together to seek to prevent and control wildland fires which threaten life, property and eco-sensitive areas.