Spate of gorse fires in dry spell burns up €2m bill
Published 24/04/2010 | 05:00
A SPATE of mountain and gorse fires in the west has already cost an estimated €2m.
The prolonged dry spell has led to numerous instances of illegal burning of gorse by landowners.
And the fires have spread to state and privately-owned woodlands, all of which have suffered significant losses.
Coillte estimates that it is facing a €1m bill after 1,500 acres of forest were burnt over the last week.
About half of the country's forests are owned by Coillte and the other half are privately owned.
The cost of fighting the fires -- which have severely stretched fire services in counties Galway, Mayo, Clare and Kerry -- is estimated to be a further €1m.
The cost in Co Kerry alone is in the region of €400,000 and Kerry Chief Fire Officer Vincent Hussey insisted there was now "a moral obligation" on people setting fires to burn gorse, to immediately stop and behave responsibly.
Under the Wildlife Acts, it is illegal to set fire to vegetation between March 1 and August 31.
So far this month there have been 115 incidents of mountain, bogland and gorse fires in Co Kerry.
The number of gorse fires over the last three months in Co Kerry has already exceeded the annual total for 2009.
"The fight to contain fires is draining resources and taking from the service's normal responsibility to attend house fires and road accidents," said Mr Hussey.
Up to 1,000 acres of forestry are believed to have been destroyed by fires which have broken out over the last 10 days in parts of Connemara.
Helicopters have dumped thousands of gallons of water on raging fires in Oughterard, Kylemore and Letterfrack.
Late on Thursday night householders near Moycullen had to abandon their homes following an outbreak at a bog near Uggool and Kylebroughlan.
Local resident Louis Cazabon said: "At around 10 o'clock you could see the sky was red over the bog and then, within half an hour, I was throwing things into a bag, ready to be told to move out."
The fire raged until 4am before it was brought under control.