Ireland — Losses to forestry growers due to the recent fires could top 2m, industry sources have suggested.
In excess of 1,500ac of State and private forests had been destroyed up to last Thursday, Coillte maintained.
But with fires reported in at least six counties over the weekend, the total area of forest lost has increased.
At least five substantial forest fires were reported in Donegal, one in Connemara, four in Kerry and Cork and five in Galway, Roscommon and Leitrim. Connemara, Mayo and Kerry have been among the areas worst affected.
A major fire near Arigna, Co Leitrim caused serious damage over the weekend. Fires were also reported on lands adjoining Killarney National Park, Moycullen, Co Galway was also badly hit, while severe fire damage was reported in Bangor Erris, Co Mayo.
Pat Hennessy of the IFA farm forestry committee said it was difficult to put an exact figure on the cost of the damage done to date.
He pointed out that replanting costs would set forest owners back 1,000/ac and this figure would increase if older trees had to be cleared.
Where forests planted 15-16 years ago were damaged, Mr Hennessy said the costs could exceed 8,000/ac.
Farmers and recreational forest users have been blamed for starting some of the fires, with the burning of gorse by land owners singled out as the primary cause in a number of cases.
The Department of Agriculture has warned that single farm payments may be cut where farmers are found to be in breach of the ban on burning between March 1 and August 31. The level of reduction imposed would be determined by the extent, severity and permanence of the damage done by the burning, the Department indicated.
Gerard Murphy of Coillte said the dry weather over the past two weeks, combined with the cold during the winter, meant fires had spread rapidly.
“Coillte hopes that the good weather conditions will permit the maximum enjoyment of our forests, but we urge people to behave responsibly, be vigilant, and help stamp out forest fire,” Mr Murphy said.