Meath County Council, Meath Crime Prevention and the National Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage are working closely together towards raising awareness on preventing unnecessary grass, sand dune and beach fires on Meath beaches.

In recent years the Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington areas have all seen an increase in the numbers of grass, sand dune and beach fires. These types of fires are an unnecessary health and safety risk for fire fighters, land and home owners, businesses, public and private property and, as well as damaging precious coastal habitats, they can take up a substantial amount of Fire and Rescue resources – which could delay attendance to a life-threatening house fire or road traffic collision.

Meath County Council Assistant Chief Fire Officer Brian Cosgrave said: “Unfortunately, these types of fires are becoming more frequent with 46 fires recorded along the Coastline of County Meath in the past 2 years. They can happen at any time of the year, particularly during a dry spell. Whilst we enjoy these areas of natural beauty, we have to be mindful of how to enjoy them safely and how to protect them, simple measures such as not lighting fires, including BBQ’s, on or near beaches, the proper extinguishment of cigarettes and other smoking materials and the removal of own rubbish”

He added that under the Meath County Council Foreshore Bye Laws 2010, that “no person is permitted to light a fire or barbeque or do anything likely to cause a fire”.

Speaking about the potential damage to flora and fauna, a spokesperson for the National Parks and Wildlife Service added: “Any fires within dunes have the potential to cause lasting damage to unique flora and fauna of the dune system. Plant species such as Marram grass are essential to the integrity of the dunes and loss of this to fire will lead to loss of habitat and excessive erosion. Our dunes will quite simply disappear. This is extra to the loss of other important species. Birds such as Skylark and Meadow Pipit nest on the ground in this habitat and fires are detrimental to any eggs and young chicks as they cannot escape. Many invertebrates are also killed, and these are the food for the many birds found within the dunes.”

“Much of the Meath coast is designated as either Special Areas of Conservation, or Special Protection Areas for Birds under the EU Habitat and Birds Directives. Collectively these designations are known as Natura 2000 sites. We all need to protect these sensitive areas for all to enjoy and to keep them as places worth protecting. These areas, specifically the dunes are already receiving much pressure from, for example, effects of Climate Change, increased recreational usage due to Covid, etc. Any extra pressures from fires can have a very serious impact on the biodiversity and integrity of the site. The multiple small fires can all add up to significant damage. Please do not light fires in these sensitive protected sites.”

When visiting coastal areas