Fire chiefs condemn reckless arsonists as blazes rage on
FIRE chiefs yesterday condemned the reckless actions of arsonists as gorse, bog and forest fires continued to burn around the country.
People starting fires deliberately were putting lives at risk, said Chief Fire Officers' Association (CFOA) vice-chairman Adrian Kelly.
"Such reckless actions have placed the lives of members of the local community and firefighters at risk," said Mr Kelly, speaking ahead of the CFOA annual conference in Limerick.
"These fires have also destroyed hundreds of acres of gorse land, forestry and bogs, with negative consequences for property, tourism and wildlife."
Hundreds of firefighters have been tackling an unprecedented number of blazes in 13 counties over the past five days, some of which are being blamed on arsonists.
Mr Kelly said the geographical spread had placed a huge strain on fire services in the affected counties.
He warned that while the arrival or rain in some of the affected areas over the next 48 hours would provide a significant boost, the threat of fires reigniting still remained.
Speaking in the Dail last night, Taoiseach Enda Kenny also condemned what he said appeared to be "deliberate arson attacks".
In Co Donegal, which has suffered the brunt of the blazes, six fires were still burning. Homes around Falcarragh on the north coast had to be evacuated because of dense smoke from gorse fires on the nearby Muckish Mountain.
Two Air Corps helicopters worked throughout the day dropping thousands of litres of water on to the burning mountain, while 50 defence forces personnel and medics assisted firefighters on the ground in bringing the blaze under control.
Fires also reignited in the Ardara/Narin area, and in Glenties, Dungloe, Carndonagh and Fanad. At Bonnyglen, near Narin, two Coillte helicopters were called in to assist in a serious forest fire, where a number of houses were in danger.
Last night, Donegal senator Brian O Domhnaill (FF) called on the ministers for Environment and Agriculture to visit the county, and make available a substantial compensation package.
"Entire farms have been lost. Millions of euro worth of damage has been caused to agricultural land, forestry, fencing, turf that was freshly cut and damage to buildings due to smoke," he said.
Elsewhere, six fire units and 30 firefighters battled bog fires in counties Offaly and Westmeath, where their efforts were hindered by high winds. More than 400 Bord na Mona workers were assisting fire personnel at blazes in Ferbane, Moate and Ballingar.
Smoke from blazes between Ferbane and Edenderry forced residents to flee their homes and road closures.
Firefighters were also out in counties Louth, Kildare and Laois where a number of fires were brought under control.
By yesterday evening, fires in the Dromore West and Culleens area of Sligo had been brought largely under control.
Up to 40 firefighters from four surrounding stations tackled the blazes, which covered a large area of forestry and bog.
In Mayo, firefighters fought gorse and bog fires in parts of Westport, Castlebar, Balla, Kiltimagh, Charlestown, Swinford and Crossmolina.
Fires in Co Leitrim were also largely under control, but one house in the Dromahair area of the county was destroyed.
In Northern Ireland, the National Trust has estimated that thousands of acres of the Mourne Mountains have been damaged by gorse fires.
A 15 year old and a 10 year old were arrested on suspicion of setting fires at Sixmilecross, near Omagh, Co Tyrone.