Ireland — A BOG in Trumera is the most common wildland fire hotspot in Laois, with the countys fire services attending to the area almost 60 times in seven years.
The information emerged as state bodies and fire services from across the country descended on Portlaoise last Thursday for a seminar on wildfires and forest fires.
The event at Aras an Chontae was opened by junior minister for forestry Tom Hayes and was hosted by Laois Co Council in conjunction with the forest service at the Department of Agriculture. Laois is one of only a few counties to have a wildfire inter-agency group (WIG).
The WIG sees Laois Fire Services liaise with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Coillte, gardaí, Bord na Mona, Laois Forestry Group, IFA and Civil Defence among others.
Established in 2011, Laois WIG allows agencies to become familiar with each other so that in case of a fire the response can be coordinated.
Safety and equipment standards are established and Laois Fire Services have run training days with the likes Coillte and Bord na Mona.
Assistant chief fire officer Anthony Tynan gave a presentation of the work of Laois WIG, along with fire officers from Cork and Kerry.
Mr Tynan said that wildfires, particularly in 2011, stretched fire services to breaking point.
April to June is historically the peak months for wildfires in Laois, although fires have occurred between July and August.
Theyre very resource intensive over peak times for a couple of weeks a year. You can have close to 100% use of resources. Theres been times when there is no (fire) appliances off the road or available because of wildland fires. The implications for fire cover are pretty serious. In 2011, the fire cover was stretched to breaking point.
The fire services have monitored the countys wildland fire hotspots over a period of seven years. Derrough Bog, Trumera is the most common site for wildland fires in the county, with 57 callouts between 2004 and 2011.
In 2011, there were 88 wildland fire incidents reported in Laois. This added up to 313 station hours, roughly, 2,500 man-hours, with a wages bill of approximately 150,000.
Losses to either Coillte or private forestry in Laois during 2011 were relatively small, with most fires being on bog or scrubland.
However, minister Hayes said that nationally fires in forestry are devastating.
It is useful to put the forestry losses into context. In 2011, it is estimated that around 1,500 hectares of forestry were lost to fire. That represents almost a quarter of the total newly planted area under my departments afforestation schemes in that year. The cost of fire suppression in and replacement of state-owned forests is estimated to have cost over 8 million, he said.
Callouts have been down since the formation of Laois WIG. However, Mr Tynan said that while the group played its part, the predominant factor was the weather.
Arguably the countys best control for wild fires is the controlled burning procedure, where people who wish to burn growing material or agricultural waste notify the fire services and Laois Co Council in advance.
This was a common consensus with Cork and Kerry fire services reporting similar experiences.
They are burning more safely and letting us know. Fires in the past that you have driven out to, you just dont go anymore because there is no danger, no emergency, said Mr Tynan.