Monday 10 December 2018

Forty-two fires in just two days

Fire crews from Greystones attending an ongoing ground and gorse fire at Windgates on Friday
Fire crews from Greystones attending an ongoing ground and gorse fire at Windgates on Friday
Smoke hangs over Kilmacanogue on Thursday as another fireburns in the distance at the Sally Gap
A Rathdrum fire crew fills up at the Clash River in Ballinaclash
Fire crews tackling a blaze in the Ballyshane-Macreddin area

Mary Fogarty

Wicklow County Fire Service attended 42 gorse, forest and wildland fires over last Thursday and Friday.

Chief Fire Officer Aidan Dempsey said yesterday (Tuesday) that the message about safety seems to be getting through, with a less busy weekend for fire fighters all over the county. Sections of the Sally Gap and Lough Bray continued to burn yesterday, as well as an area near Aughrim.

'We knew at the outset that it would not be a sprint but a long-distance event,' said Mr Dempsey on the hard, arduous work and long hours put in by Wicklow's eight fire teams.

Using the resources of Met Eireann, they knew early what the conditions would be like and planned accordingly for a long series of events.

At its peak on Thursday afternoon, up to 70 fire-fighters were involved in operations at various locations throughout the county.

The most serious of these were located on the Military Road near the Sally Gap, at Lough Bray, at Rocky Valley in Kilmacanoge and at Windgates in Greystones. Crews have been working tirelessly on the ground and are also maintaining the capability to respond at short notice to any other serious incidents that may occur.

During the current spate of gorse/wild land fires across County Wicklow, the fire services have worked closely with a number of agencies who have eased the burden on firefighters at critical times. In some cases, the fire service allowed sections to burn where there was no risk to property and instead worked more closely at roadsides and where there may have been risk to property.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government coordinates daily and processes requests for Air Corps assistance nationally. Air Corps crew were involved in a number of operations in Wicklow in the past week.

'We are very grateful for the support of Air Corps helicopters at a number of incidents,' said Mr Dempsey.

'Coordinating our operations with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte has been very effective. The Coillte helicopter has proved invaluable in many areas,' he said.

Gardai in Wicklow have increased their activities in areas of high fire risk and have closed roads where smoke made conditions too dangerous.

Civil Defence volunteers and Fire Service Officers are patrolling areas at risk, feeding back information and identifying remote fires promptly. The Civil Defence deployed drones this weekend to provide an invaluable overview of difficult locations.

As is always the case when emergency services may be stretched, the Defence Forces are available to respond if required.

Wicklow County Fire Service has also expressed its gratitude to the public for their support and offers of assistance.

People continue to be advised not to light fires, and to use barbecues in designated areas only while the current weather conditions remain in place.

'I would like to thank the fire-fighters for their efforts during this period and I'm asking the public to be extra vigilant with all possible sources of ignition, e.g. discarded cigarette butts, disposable barbecues and to report any illegal or suspicious activity in relation to fires to An Garda Siochána,' said Mr Dempsey.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service, the civil defence, and indeed members of the public remain on high alert to catch any incidents in time to extinguish fires before they can become more serious.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has extended its red forest fire warning until noon on Friday, July 6.

'An extreme fire risk is deemed to exist in all areas where hazardous fuels exist. This risk is further compounded by higher ignition risks associated with increased human activity on high fire risk land types associated with current weather,' the department said it a statement.

The fire risk will be reviewed again on Friday and, with sign of rain forecast, may be extended.

Bray People