Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

Pictures: Family home destroyed after trees 'exploded into flames' from gorse fire

The house gutted by a gorse fire at Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. Photos: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
The house gutted by a gorse fire at Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo. Photos: Keith Heneghan / Phocus
The thatch of this house caught fire and burnt down in Kiltimagh, Mayo.
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

A family of five have lost their home after it was burnt when the roof caught fire from embers carried on the wind from local fires.

The house outside Kiltimagh caught fire on Friday evening, when embers from a gorse fire were caught in the wind and landed in the thatch roof of the Brennan family home.

Despite several units of the fire brigade attending the blaze, the fire spiraled out of control. 

Bernice Brennan, whose family own and live in the house, told RTE Radio 1 that the wind was changing direction and the course of the fire was altering. She said that she saw a bit of a fire some distance from the house, but then 'trees exploded into flames" and some of the embers lodged in their roof.

The family had a first holy communion on Saturday morning and the local community is rallying around to support them.

The IFA has said that farmers are not doing all the burning (of gorse). Until 2000 burning was legal until April 15, but now they cannot legally burn gorse the end of February. He said this makes it almost impossible for farmers to burn vegetation.

Pat Dunne of the IFA said the vegetation is too green to allow it to burn properly. "You can't burn it when you need to burn it."

He said that the cut off for burning should be the middle of April, which would allow farmers burnt in March. He called on farmers to be vigilant and not to be carrying out illegal burning.

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Coillte confirmed that recent forest fires around the country have resulted in hundreds of hectares of productive commercial forestry being destroyed.

Commenting on the damage to Coillte’s forest estate, Gerard Murphy, Managing Director of Coillte Forest, said: “The recent spate of fires has been responsible for the worst damage to Coillte’s estate since 2011. The combined loss of productive timber, together with the cost of replanting the affected areas will result in a multimillion euro bill.”

Recent dry and windy weather has greatly increased the risk of gorse and forestry fire, but deliberate fire setting has also been a significant factor in the cause of many of the fires on Coillte property around the country, it says.

It reminded people that it is illegal to set fires to growing vegetation from March 1 to August 31.

However, the Irish Wildlife Trust has said that no farmer has been penalised for illegal burning of vegetation. It says that farmers with burnt land are ineligible for the single farm payment and yet, in a Freedom of Information request from the Department of Agriculture the Irish Wildlife Trust has learned that no farmer was penalised in 2016 under the so-call ‘cross compliance’ rules.

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