Cork County Council spending €250k each year fighting wildfires

Cork County Council spending €250k each year fighting wildfires
A fire rages out of control around the iconic church of Gougane Barra last month. Picture: John Delea.

CORK County Council is spending more than a quarter of a million euro each year to fight wildfires, with more than €60,000 spent already this year.

Councillors warned that if the fires continue, there will be a tragedy before long.

Fianna Fail councillor Christopher O'Sullivan requested the figures following the gorse fires which raged around Gougane Barra last month. The council said that its figures are grouped together for all gorse, forest, bog, and grass fires, and that the costs associated were the estimated payroll costs for staff.

The Fire Service had responded to 129 such fires up to the end of April this year, at a cost of €60,225, putting it on track to match or exceed the figures of previous years. The payroll costs for 2016 were €275,905, €277,732 in 2015, and €260,877 in 2014.

Councillors said that there are issues facing farmers, but that these needed to be addressed to prevent illegal fires, and that those who broke the existing rules needed to be prosecuted.

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Hayes said that one day Cork would wake up to a tragedy like the Rescue 116 helicopter, where a firefighter was killed in the line of duty.

"We must give credit to our fire department for responding and spending so many hours on end responding to massive fires. But we'll wake up one morning and it will be like Rescue 116, and some firefighter will after being caught up in something like this. We need to see prosecutions for people involved in this.

"The stories coming out of Gougane Barra were frightening, where people were describing hearing sheep crying up on the mountains when they had nowhere to go and were being burned alive. It's absolutely appalling," he said.

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