A MASSIVE fire on Slievebloom Mountains has already destroyed hundreds of hectares of forestry and caused millions of euro worth of damage, the head of Coillte’s forestry division has said.
Gerard Murphy said they have been dealing with a large number of forest and gorse fires on the mountain between Laois and Offaly is by far the biggest.
He warned the public to be careful when disposing the likes of cigarette butts as any spark could light up a whole forest.
“We have a range of flora and fauna in that part so there is not only commercial damage but significant environmental damage in these areas, together with the social damage, the smoke that is permeating down here, that also causes problems,” he said.
The blaze took off yesterday at around midday, with chief fire officer at Laois Fire and Rescue, Declan Power saying smoke travelled all the way out to the motorway by yesterday evening.
He said that no fires should be lit in any circumstances.
“There is a red fire warning in place, so at home, out in the countryside, do not light a fire in those circumstances,” he said.
“Don’t burn rubbish, don’t light a bbq...Anything that can cause a fire because if you light a fire at home and the wind picks up the ditches are dry, your grass is dry, there is a potential for fire spreading anywhere,” he added.
The Defence Forces were refueling their helicopter in Athlone in order to come and drop water over the fire following earlier drops of 1200 litres per drop - filling up from a nearby lake.
Fire fighters and Defence Forces were on the ground on Slievebloom and it is expected to take a number of days to put the fire out.