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Friday 14 December 2018

Drought leaves blaze threat at dangerous levels across State

Overheating: Damage caused by fires in the Slieve Bloom mountain range, Co Laois. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Overheating: Damage caused by fires in the Slieve Bloom mountain range, Co Laois. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Tinder-dry conditions will continue for the remainder of the week as the heatwave shows no signs of abating, according to Met Éireann.

And drought conditions are set to continue for the foreseeable future with soil levels remaining extremely dry, according to forecaster Liz Walsh.

The forest fire between Adamstown and Camross.
The forest fire between Adamstown and Camross.

“The moisture in the soil is between 70mms and 90mms below normal,” she said.

Even intermittent showers expected throughout the week will not be enough to bring the moisture levels back to normal, she added.

“For much of the week ahead, it will be a dry, warm picture even with the odd scattered showers,” she said.

The dry conditions have already prompted the Department of Agriculture to issue a condition red forest fire warning.

Members of the 3rd battalion in Stephens barracks in Kilkenny try and contain a gorse fire in the Slieve bloom Mountains in Co Laois. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Members of the 3rd battalion in Stephens barracks in Kilkenny try and contain a gorse fire in the Slieve bloom Mountains in Co Laois. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

The warning, which followed similar alerts last month, went into effect on Friday morning and will remain until Wednesday. 

“Arising from the effects of prolonged high pressure weather systems, high temperatures and drought conditions, an extreme fire risk is deemed to exist in all areas where there are hazardous fuels,” it reads.

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“This risk is further compounded by high-ignition risks associated with increased human activities on all high-risk land types during the current fine weather spell.”

A spokesman for the State forestry agency Coillte said the public is being urged to be extremely vigilant and report any signs of smoke to authorities and to refrain from using open flames – such as barbecues – in forested areas.

Members of the 3rd battalion in Stephens barracks in Kilkenny watch as a defence forces helicopter drops water on a gorse fire in the Slieve bloom Mountains in Co Laois. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
Members of the 3rd battalion in Stephens barracks in Kilkenny watch as a defence forces helicopter drops water on a gorse fire in the Slieve bloom Mountains in Co Laois. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

The body has also called on  the public to be on the lookout for anyone deliberately setting fires or being careless with open fires.

It is urging so-called ‘fire tourists’ to stay away as they can block access to roads used by fire fighters as well as pose a danger to themselves.

The warning comes after fire officers – with the help of the Air Corps and Coillte staff – were able to get a massive forest fire under control yesterday at the Slieve Bloom mountains in the midlands.

“At the moment, the fire is contained,” the spokesman said last night. However, he said the fire was not fully extinguished but manageable.

“There are hot spots and we are working with the Air Corps and fire service to attack these hot spots,” he told the Irish Independent.

“It’s a matter of ongoing management.”

The fire ignited on Wednesday on the Offaly side of the mountain range.

It then spread to the Laois side due to a combination of dry and windy conditions.

The Offaly and Laois Fire Service has been fighting the blaze since then, aided by two Air Corps fire-fighting helicopters.

Meanwhile, a status yellow weather advisory remains in effect until midnight on Wednesday.

The warning from Met Éireann advises that the “mostly dry and warm weather will continue across Ireland for the rest of this week and through next week as well, thus exacerbating drought conditions.”

The warning went into effect on June 30. Today will be another dry and hot day with top temperatures of between 23C and 27C but cooler along coastal areas.

There will be a mixture of sunny and cloudy spells with light northerly breezes with overnight temperatures in the mid-teens.

Online Editors