Western wildfire initiative commended

Mark Smyth, lead wildfire officer in NIFRS, speaking at the wildfire seminar in Gortin
Mark Smyth, lead wildfire officer in NIFRS, speaking at the wildfire seminar in Gortin

Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on rural affairs, Declan McAleer, has commended the Fire Service for taking an initiative with farmers in the Sperrins area to discuss the issue of safe gorse fire management.

Mr McAleer said: “In West Tyrone we had a number of gorse fires last year that had the potential to compromise the safety of farmers and the local community.

“In response to this, I met recently with fire chiefs to discuss the issue and the potential of a partnership approach to deal with this. I was aware of the inter-agency approach on wild fires adopted in the Mournes.

“The first step towards a partnership approach began last week when the Fire Service along with Michael Bruce, vice chair of the Scottish Wildfire Forum, facilitated a very informative seminar in Gortin which was attended by local farmers and land owners.

“During a presentation by the NIFRS lead wildfire officer Mark Smyth, safe fire management techniques were illustrated and future partnership models were discussed.

“The next step in the process is Fire Service returning to the area for a practical demonstration in safe, controlled burning. The wider aspiration is to set up a western wildfire group with farmers, landowners and relevant agencies.

“It was agreed that a partnership approach is the most effective way to prevent and respond effectively to gorse fires so that they do not get out of control and compromise the safety of our farmers, fire fighters and communities. I commend Fire Service for this initiative and urge farmers to get involved.”