Saturday 16 December 2017

Devastating forestry fires


Paul Deering

Sligo Fire Service has expressed its disappointment that it hadn't the use of a helicopter equipped with a water bucket to help it fight the fierce forestry fire at Killery, Ballintogher.

Some 4,000 acres were affected along with prts of the Sligo Way in the devastating fire which began on Wednesday afternoon and raged until Thursday night with some 50 firefighters at the scene.

"Unfortunately, one resource that would have proved invaluable, a helicopter fitted with a water basket to drop water at strategic locations was not available to us throughout this incident," said a spokesperson for Sligo Fire Service.

It was around 2.30pm last Wednesday afternoon that the service was called out initially to deal with a gorse fire at Killery.

"At this point it was only just developing. Unfortunately, due to the weather conditions, dry, warm and windy and the terrain of Kilelry Mountain, the fire escalated very quickly.

"The are involved was predominantly gorse covering the mountain, however, skirting it is forestry, primarily Coillte forestry at Slishwood, both conifer and deciduous and there are a number of houses located in the area.

"The primary concern of the fire service is to protect life and property and this was our priority.

"We quickly established that the risk to life was minimal and therefore concentrated our efforts on saving property.

"Sligo Fire Service did achieve this and thankfully no members of the public were injured or properties lost due to the exceptional hard work of the firefighters involved.

"Unfortunately, sections of the Slishwood Sligo Way Walk were damaged by fire but considering the extent and coverage of the fire, it is welcome that a large section is still intact," said the spokesperson.

The fire was at its height between midnight and early Thursday morning with somje seven fire appliances in attendance, 4x4 jeeps, a water carrier and some 50 fire personnel.

"The night time skyline looked impressive, however, the most challenging aspect of dealing with the fire was access and in some cases, the total inaccessibility for fire service personnel to areas within Slish Wood and Killery Mountains," added the spokesperson.

The service said the assistance of the Sligo Coastguard Helicopter 118 was invaluable in that it enabled fire officers view the extent of the blaze from an aerial perspective.

The fire service also praised the assistance of Coillte staff and the help it also received from Leitrim and Donegal fire personnel. Crews were rotated throughout the incident to ensure personnel were always present and also to provide cover for Sligo.

The main Dromahair Road was closed for a considerable period due to congestion caused by members of the public stopping to look at the spectacular blaze. The closure also allowed better access for the fire service.

Sligo Champion

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