Driest Spring since records began
We all enjoyed the phenomenal weather over the long weekend, and it certainly helps with the lockdown issues and social distancing. But, if you're noticing the grass in your garden is struggling and turning yellow, as well as fields all over the country, then you won't be surprised to hear that this has been the driest Spring (March, April & May) since 1837, as recorded in the Phoenix Park, Dublin. The Icarus blog as hosted by the department of Geography at Maynooth university, identifies more extreme drought conditions, and a month earlier than in 2018!
Icarus also suggests that the "long range forecasts and seasonal outlooks show little sign of significant rain at this stage." The blog post from Icarus is here.
The impacts of this on forestry across the country is the higher likelihood of forest fires nationally. The weekend saw numerous fires nationally, with a status RED warning - a relatively rare event in Ireland. The Irish Times reported on a number of fires across the country, for example on the Kildare/ Meath border and in close proximity to a munitions factory.
Of course, this is a cause of great concern to us here and for many of our clients, particularly in the highest risk areas. For example, we have been monitoring fires in Galway close to clients holdings. Green Belt has put in place fire breaks around the higher risk properties, which is a good help. The RED warning suggests that the fire brigade etc may be proactively deploying to areas of highest risk.
We urge everyone to be vigilant and careful. If you spot anything that looks like a forest fire, report it. And please do not light fires, BBQ's etc anywhere near forests or dry grass. Use your head! See below selected extracts the reference from Coillte.ie
STATUS RED EXTREME FOREST FIRE RISK WARNING ISSUED PUBLIC URGED TO REMAIN AT HOME AS PER COVID-19 GUIDELINES Status RED EXTREME National Forest Fire Risk Warning in place until Monday of next week
DAFM advise at this point that all forms of permitted controlled burning immediately cease, and that the outdoor use of fires, barbeques and other open ignition sources be avoided on forest lands and in other high risk areas until further notice. Report Fires Immediately. If you see a fire, do not delay; report it to the Fire and Emergency Services straight away. Do not wait for somebody else to make the call. Dial 999 or 112. It is an offence to cut, grub, burn or otherwise destroy any vegetation growing on any land not then cultivated between 1st March and 31st August in any year. Report all suspicious or illegal activity to Gardai immediately. The issue of Condition Red extreme fire risk warnings is a comparatively rare event and implies that recipients should take immediate action to protect resources and property. Such action may involve the mobilisation, assembly and prepositioning of resources such as water tankers, machinery, personnel and contract aviation support to high risk areas.
Coillte has reminded members of the public that the Government Covid 19 related restrictions are still in place and that members of the public should stay at home or within 5km of their home. Arising from increased temperatures and low recent rainfall levels, a high fire risk is deemed to exist in all areas where hazardous fuels such as dead grasses and shrub fuels such as heather and gorse exist.
Weather conditions across Ireland indicate a high fire spread potential and difficulty of suppression in typical upland fuels. Fire behaviour will be influenced by light to moderate easterly and south easterly winds that may exceed 20km/h in coastal areas. Fire behaviour may be moderated by increased live growth in places. Overall Forest fire risk is likely to be compounded by ignitions risks associated with expected high levels of public activity in fire prone areas during the Bank Holiday Weekend.
Members of the public intending to visit forests and other recreational sites are reminded of the requirement to remain within 5km of their homes and to adhere to regulations introduced to limit the spread of Covid-19. Vehicles should not be parked at site entrances or impede emergency service access to forest roads. DAFM advise that all outdoor use of fires, barbeques and other open ignition sources be avoided on forest lands and in other high risk areas until further notice.
Pending significant rainfall, this risk condition will remain in place until 1200hrs on Monday, June 1st, 2020 unless otherwise stated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
Coillte forest carparks and forests remain open for people who live within 5km of them to take brief physical exercise in line with the Government guidelines.
Landowners are also reminded that under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to burn growing vegetation on uncultivated land between 1st March and 31st August. Persons engaged in such illegal activity are liable to prosecution and could face fines, imprisonment and penalties to their farm payments.