Air Corps called in to battle gorse fires in the west of Ireland

Over the weekend the Irish Air Corps was called in to help battle a gorse fire in the Ox Mountains in Co. Sligo.

The Air Corps was helping fire crews from Co. Sligo and Coillte to deal with the blaze; which reportedly began on Wednesday, May 3.

Using a ‘Bambi Bucket’, the Air Corps was dropping in excess of 1,000L of water at a time on the fires in an attempt to get them under control.

Meanwhile, a ‘major fire’ at Cloosh Valley, Co. Galway escalated out of control yesterday. Thousands of acres of forest, moorland and wildlife are now at major risk of destruction, Coillte confirmed.

The fire is believed to have escalated despite the best efforts of Coillte and local ground crews to extinguish the fire.

Ireland’s largest wind farm, Galway Wind Park, is also located within this forest; it is in close proximity to the fire.

Local fire brigades have now been called in to help protect the wind farm and Coillte has also requested support from the Air Corps.

Recent forest fires around the country have resulted in hundreds of hectares of productive, commercial forestry being destroyed and this has the potential to run into thousands of hectares if fires continue, according to Coillte.

These forest fires have also threatened the welfare of many homes and local communities, as well as causing devastation to vast areas of wildlife habitat, it added.

The recent outbreak of fires, particularly across the west and north of the country, has been responsible for the worst damage to Coillte’s estate since 2011, the Managing Director of Coillte Forest, Gerard Murphy, said.

The combined loss of productive timber, together with the cost of replanting the affected areas will result in a multi-million euro bill.

“In addition to the damage caused to commercial forestry, these forest fires pose a significant risk to farmland, native woodland and areas designated for nature conservation,” Murphy said.

Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to set fires to growing vegetation from March 1 to August 31; those found responsible for deliberately starting fires can be prosecuted.

Recent dry and windy weather has greatly increased the risk of gorse and forest fire, but deliberate fire setting has also been a significant factor in the cause of many of the fires, Coillte confirmed.

gorse fire

Coillte has asked the public to report any suspicious activity regarding the setting of fires to the local Gardai.

A ‘Condition Red – Extreme Fire Risk’ warning from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine came to an end yesterday.

‘Majority of gorse fires are started deliberately’

Between Monday, May 1, and Monday, May 8, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) attended 511 gorse fires; some 466 of these were started deliberately, the NIFRS confirmed.

The NIFRS is reminding everyone that dealing with these types of incidents puts not only firefighters’ lives at risk but the lives of everyone in the local community and puts additional pressure on operational resources.

Everyone in the community should remain vigilant when in the countryside, according to NIFRS Area Commander, Maurice Rafferty.

“If you see a fire, report it immediately to the Fire and Rescue Service. Don’t attempt to tackle fires. Leave the area as soon as possible.

Deliberate fire setting has major consequences. It ties up our vital resources from other more serious incidents and, potentially, puts people and property at risk.

“These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment,” he said.