UFU urges fire caution as hot weather continues

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The Ulster Farmers’ Union says farmers will be on alert for wildfires as the dry, hot weather continues and is urging the public to be mindful of the risk while enjoying the countryside.

UFU Hill Farming chairman, John Kennedy said: “The dry weather is a big change from this time last year when we were facing months of prolonged, wet weather. We are fortunate to have a beautiful countryside and understandably, people want to be outside enjoying the sunshine. Farmers are making the most of the good weather too, however, there are some challenges.”

With the dry, hot weather comes the elevated risk of wildfires and Mr Kennedy says everyone should take extra care.

“Especially in the hills, increasing restrictions on controlled burns to manage heather and gorse means there is a greater risk of a wildfire in dry conditions,” he added.

The recent wildfire in the Sperrins and in England demonstrate how quickly these fires can spread and how difficult it can be to tackle them.

“Being able to appropriately manage these areas will go a long way in helping to prevent fires. Going forward, government should be supporting farmers to carry out controlled burns at the right time of year within habitats that are at risk of wildfire. It is a practice that has been around for many generations and helps to keep vegetation under control,” said Mr Kennedy.

“It is possible that any ignition, like a cigarette butt, glass bottle, or a disposable barbeque, could result in the development and rapid spread of an unpredictable fire, particularly in hill areas with rough grasses, heather, gorse or forests. It’s not a risk we are used to, so all the more reason for everyone to err on the side of caution. If you do see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service,” said Mr Kennedy.