IFA Countryside Chairman Brian Rushe has appealed to people to be extra vigilant over the May Bank Holiday weekend to avoid forest fires.

“Most fires spread from adjoining land into a forest. After such a dry weather spell, a fire risk can develop quickly in areas where flammable vegetation such as grasses, gorse and heather are present, as we saw around the country last weekend,” he said.

He said the number of people visiting and walking near forests is likely to increase over the Bank Holiday weekend.

“It’s important that everyone is extra careful as sometimes a fire can be started inadvertently. Walkers should use approved forest walks.

“I would encourage farmers to review their fire plan and make sure their firebreaks are maintained, especially if the forest is located in a high-risk area. A firebreak should consist of a six-metre-wide fuel free zone, typically around the boundary of the forest,” he said.

He said that fires should be reported without delay to the Fire and Emergency Services by calling 999 or 112. He stressed that a caller will not be billed by the Fire Service or Local Authority for making the call.