Council urged to consider deploying goats to help contain future gorse fires in Killiney

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has been urged to consider deploying a herd of goats to help contain the spread of future gorse fires in Killiney.

he call was made after a serious blaze earlier this week resulted in the evacuation of 10 homes in the area and saw two firefighters treated in hospital for minor injuries.

Crews worked throughout the night to contain the outbreak, which started at Mullins Hill at around 5.30pm on Monday evening and was still raging the next morning. The Air Corps assisted efforts to extinguish the fire by using a Bambi bucket to carry out water drops in the area on Tuesday.

Members of Dublin Fire Brigade were praised for saving nearby properties, with flames reaching a number of back gardens and outbuildings during the “extremely challenging” operation.

The incident, described as Dublin’s worst wildfire so far this year, has led to calls for a new land management plan for the wider Killiney Hill area involving the use of goats, similar to one introduced in Howth last summer.

The three-year-pilot programme, a partnership between Fingal County Council and the Old Irish Goat Society, uses the herd to graze down the height of vegetation and create natural fire breaks on the Hill of Howth.

Traditional grazing schemes, overseen by professional herders, successfully operate in countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal.

Independent councillor Hugh Lewis said the Howth goat programme was an interesting initiative that warranted consideration by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council.

“The example set in Howth presents an opportunity to sustainably mitigate against the increasing risk of gorse fires in Killiney in the future,” he said.

“For this reason, I’ll be proposing that the council explores a similar strategy in consultation with Dublin Fire Brigade and residents in Killiney and Dalkey.”

Station officer Darren O’Connor, Dublin Fire Brigade’s wildfire expert, said the goat programme in Howth had helped maintain fire breaks on the peninsula by keeping vegetation levels low.

“Fire breaks are like putting fire doors into an apartment building by making compartments and preventing spread from one area to another,” he said. “The higher the flame length from the vegetation, the wider the fire break needs to be.

“Lower-lying ground vegetation produces lower flame lengths and is easier to deal with using direct firefighting tactics such as hose, beaters and backpack sprayers. However, replanting and the creation of fire breaks needs multiple stakeholder engagement to assess the ecological effect as well.

“The goat project in Howth seems to be working effectively to maintain existing fire breaks, cutting out the need for mechanical intervention,” he added.

Hans Visser, Fingal County Council’s biodiversity officer, said the herd in Howth had been expanded to 63 goats.

“We have been adding more males as they seem to be bit more effective in tackling the gorse,” he said. “We are happy with the way the project is going and have learned a lot over the first year.”

When asked if a goat programme for Killiney would be considered, a spokesperson for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council said: “We have fire breaks in place at Mullins Hill for a number of years to ensure that fire does not spread from public land to adjacent properties.

“We will be following up with the fire services, who we understand were involved/consulted on the Howth project, and will discuss any additional measures which may be considered suitable to the site from a fire prevention perspective.”

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