More than 1,000 fires started maliciously last year

State’s chimney fires higher than other countries due to turf and timber burning

More than 1,000 fires were started maliciously around the country last year, figures from the Department of Housing and Local Government show.

The data, which excludes Dublin as the department says the information is not recorded by Dublin Fire Brigade, shows the highest number of malicious fires were started in Louth which recorded 229 such fires. This was followed by Waterford (190) and Wicklow (139).

A spokesman for Louth County Council said the most common types of fires in this category were small outdoor fires including skip fires, bin fires and rubbish fires followed by car fires and gorse fires.


The spokesman said while the number of malicious fires in the county was relatively high, it had reduced substantially since 2007-2008. “While it is difficult to determine the reason for the relatively high numbers, dry hot weather brings an increase in gorse fires as seen in 2018 and 2019,” he said.


The 1,010 malicious fires started last year was a 36 per cent decrease on the number of such fires set in 2018, when 1,580 were recorded.

Causes of fire

The main known cause of fire attended by brigades last year was chimneys/flues/soot/hot ashes with 2,137 call-outs made by fire brigades across the State to attend these fires (excluding Dublin).

Seán Hogan of the National Directorate of Fire and Emergency management team said such fires were a particular issue in Ireland and the State’s proportion of chimney fires was much higher than in other countries. This is due primarily to the burning of turf and timber, with rural stations in particular tackling a lot of such fires.

The burning of rubbish accounted for the third-highest number of known causes of fire with 762 such incidents recorded, with one-fifth of those (158) in Louth, the highest number in the country.

The cause of more than half of fires (55 per cent) attended by fire brigades (excluding Dublin) last year was unknown, with Cork City Council recording the highest number of unknown causes of fire at 1,142.

In total (again excluding Dublin), there were 11,606 causes of fire recorded last year, down 24 per cent on the 15,330 causes of fire recorded in 2018.

Special service incidents

Road traffic accidents accounted for almost half (47 per cent) of the 14,478 special service incidents attended by fire brigades last year. The figures, which include Dublin, show water pumping-flooding accounted for 406 of the special services incidents last year, with Cork City Council attending the highest number of these (117), followed by Dublin City Council (108).

There were 354 incidents of rescue-removal of people from the water last year with the highest in Dublin at 84 and Limerick accounting for the second highest at 62.

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe

Nora-Ide McAuliffe is an Audience Editor with The Irish Times