Drones, trail cams being used to catch people setting gorse fires

Drones, trail cams being used to catch people setting gorse fires

A gorse fire at Gougane Barra last year. There is a ban on burning between March and August to protect wildlife and farm animals.

DRONES and trail cams are being used by some residents in west Cork to identify anyone setting illegal gorse fires.

The move comes after some landowners and homeowners in the Sheep’s Head and Beara peninsulas were terrified last year by gorse fires which threatened their homes and buildings. One wildfire swept through more than 300 acres in the area around Gougane Barra, killing wildlife and farm animals.

It spread from the Kerry side of the mountain over a weekend, and fire crews from Dunmanway and Macroom battled the blaze.

According to figures from the Cork County Fire Service, it dealt with 114 illegal fires in west Cork in 2015; 127 in 2016 and 110 in 2017.

Burning of vegetation is done on uplands in mountainous areas to clear the way for new growth each year. But there is a ban on burning between March 1 and August 31 to protect wildlife and farm animals — meaning that the setting of fires in recent weeks is illegal.

While gorse fires have not been as prolific yet this year because of poor weather, residents in the west Cork and Kerry areas are fearful that there will be serious damage caused by such fires in the coming weeks. One person is planning to deploy a drone to help nab anyone who sets an illegal fire, while a number of people have already used trail cams on their lands.

A source said: “At least one of them has had fires close to their residential home in the past. They have also seen first-hand the devastation these fires cause wildlife in their area. They are located primarily on or near the Sheep’s Head and Beara peninsula.”

He said that those using the cameras plan to share any footage they get with relevant authorities.

Gardaí in west Cork said there have been no major incidents yet this year.

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