Friday 24 March 2017

Army helps contain wildfires

Warnings issued as large areas of gorse, bog and forest continue to burn

An aerial photo from the
Defence Forces shows a
helicopter scooping up
water to pour on the gorse
fire in Donegal
An aerial photo from the Defence Forces shows a helicopter scooping up water to pour on the gorse fire in Donegal
A home near Dromahair, Co Leitrim, which was destroyed by a gorse fire

Anita Guidera

FIRES that raged through parts of the west of Ireland for three days -- destroying thousands of acres in their path -- were finally under control last night.



But fire chiefs warned that the danger had not abated.

More than 100 troops with specialist suits and three Air Corps helicopters continued efforts to tackle wild gorse, bog and forest fires yesterday.

Three helicopters, two equipped with buckets able to carry 1,200 litres of water at a time, were being deployed to help firefighters on the ground.

The Defence Forces were drafted in yesterday as flames ripped through gorse and forest in the Doochary, Leitir and Dungloe areas of west Donegal amid speculation that the blazes were started deliberately.

Firefighters assisted by Defence Forces and Air Corps personnel yesterday continued to battle the worst of fires, a 20km-wide blaze, which swept through over 300sq km of upland gorse and forestry.

Such was the extent of the inferno that the smoke was visible from space, and captured on a satellite image taken at 1.55pm on Sunday.

Two Air Corps helicopters, using 'bambi buckets' to scoop water from local lakes, dumped more than 100,000 litres of water on to the burning gorse and forest as the fire spread dangerously close to a residential area on Quay Road, on the outskirts of Dungloe.

However, Donegal's chief fire officer Bobby McMenamin last night said he was hopeful the worst was over.

"Sunday was the busiest day I can ever remember. We have 146 members of the fire service in the county and all were deployed: 120 were on frontline duty fighting the fires and the remaining three crews were on standby," he said.

The fire officer praised the efforts of the defence forces and civil defence.

Fires continued to burn in west Donegal, Ardara, Ballyshannon, and the Fanad and Inishowen peninsulas yesterday, but most were under control by last night.

Witnesses

Two fires also burned on the county's second highest mountain, Muckish.

Gardai have also appealed for witnesses or anyone with any information about how the fires started to come forward.

Wildlife rangers have also been assessing the toll of the devastation to fauna and flora in the richly diverse landscape, mainly areas designated as Special Areas of Conservation.

Glenveagh National Park deputy regional manager Dave Duggan said that western fringes of the national park had been impacted by the blaze.

Elsewhere around the country, emergency services were also tackling blazes in the Foxford and Pontoon areas of west Mayo; a large forest fire at Ballintogher, Co Sligo; a gorse fire near Recess in the Inagh Valley, Co Galway; a number of bog fires near Tullamore, Co Offaly; and a gorse fire at Bragan Mountain, Co Monaghan.

Irish Independent

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