Wednesday 22 May 2019

Glenmacnass Valley 'totally destroyed' by massive blaze

Wicklow Fire Service responding to the fire at Glenmacnass.
Wicklow Fire Service responding to the fire at Glenmacnass.

Myles Buchanan

A fire tore through Glenmacnass on Tuesday and destroyed acres of woodland and forestry, leaving one side of the valley completely decimated.

Rathdrum Fire Crew spent over eight hours fighting back flames and continued their efforts well into the early hours of Wednesday morning, supported by a crew from Greystones.

At one stage the blaze came perilously close to engulfing a number of houses but a last-minute change in wind direction diverted the threat. Gardai are also investigating what caused the fire but believe it was started deliberately and got out of control.

Seamus Nolan was born and bred in Glenmacnass and generations of his family have lived in the area. He said he has never witnessed such extensive devastation.

'I was only up there a few days ago with my wife Denise. It is one of the most beautiful valleys in Ireland and now it has been totally destroyed. It's like a completely different planet there now. You had so much wildlife there and now it is all gone. There were nesting Peregrine Falcons; you had beautiful trees and the holly trees were in full bloom. The damage is shocking to see. I have witnessed a lot of storms in the area down through the years but I have never seen devastation like this'.

Some householders abandoned their properties, fearing that the flames could consume them. At one stage it looked like the flames were going to spread to the Nolan home.

'The fire got really close at one stage but thankfully the wind changed direction just in time. The noise was absolutely terrifying. You could hear the flames sweeping through the trees. The fire services have to be complimented. They did brilliant work in extremely dangerous circumstances. They formed a ring around the houses as protection. If the wind hadn't changed direction and blew the fire back up the valley, then all the houses would have been burnt to the ground'.

ESB supplies to the area were disconnected and a number of tourists staying in Glenmacnass were undecided if they should flee the scene or stay.

'They were walking around absolutely terrified. Some of them thought it was a scenario something like the tragedy which occurred recently in Greece. I'm just glad no lives were lost. There is a walkway up to the woods which is very popular with locals. It's just pure luck no one was walking it when the fire broke out otherwise they would have perished,' said Seamus.

Gardaí are investigating the blaze and remain convinced that it was purposefully started. Door-to-door inquiries have taken place as part of an ongoing investigation to determine the cause of the outbreak.

Wicklow People