Gardaí are investigating several fires at a equestrian yard in Co. Westmeath that have caused at least €500,000 worth of damage.

Since July, four fires have been set at Jim Derwin Equestrian in Athlone, burning four large sheds, almost 1,200 bales of hay and straw, and a two-horse lorry.

Derwin, who is an international horse dealer, told Agriland that the first incident happened in the early hours of July 10 when a shed, owned by his mother, was set alight.

The following day, another fire was lit on Derwin’s yard, destroying two large sheds containing 750 bales of hay and straw.

On August 20, while the Derwin family were competing at the Dublin Horse Show, there was a third fire at the yard which engulfed a two-horse lorry worth €100,000.

Image: Jim Derwin

Around 6:00a.m yesterday (Friday, September 16), a nearby hay shed, owned by Jim’s brother, was set on fire destroying a further 400 round bales of hay and straw.

Derwin said that it was a miracle nobody has been injured in the incidents, given the close proximity of houses to some of the sheds.

He added that two horses had to be rescued after a bale of hay which the animals were eating was set on fire.

Derwin said that footage from CCTV cameras on the yard capturing the incidents has been handed over to gardaí.

“We’ve enough to be doing without trying to deal with this as well. We don’t need that bother, we’ve no issues with anyone.”

The horse dealer said that he paid €42/bale for 350 bales of hay which was delivered in six loads from Co. Wexford.

“It’s all money. I have to replace all of that again. I have a lot of horses and cattle. I need the sheds and I need the fodder.

“Now we have to build the sheds again and fill them with hay. It’s not good enough,” he added.

Image: Jim Derwin

Gardaí confirmed to Agriland that they are investigating the blazes in July and August at The Derries, Auburn, Dublin Road in Athlone which they described as “suspected criminal damage by fire”.

Officers are also appealing for any witnesses to the fourth blaze at a hay shed at Fardrum, Athlone yesterday morning to come forward.

The scene was preserved and examined by Westmeath Scenes of Crime Unit.

Anyone with any information in connection to the fires is being asked to contact Athlone Garda Station on (090) 6492600; the Garda Confidential Line on (1800) 666111; or any garda station.