Wednesday 19 June 2019

Investigation launched into suspected deliberate blaze at Coronation Plantation

The aftermath of the fire at Coronation Plantation in the Wicklow Mountains
The aftermath of the fire at Coronation Plantation in the Wicklow Mountains

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) intend to start using drones to manage the risk of wildfires after a blaze spread to the Coronation Plantation in Wicklow Mountains National Park on Tuesday night.

The NPWS and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht are investigating the cause of the fire but believe it was started deliberately in some vegetation located a considerable distance from a public road.

The blaze began some time before 9 p.m. and required the attendance of a number of units belonging to Wicklow Fire Service, who along with Wicklow Mountains National Park staff, fought back the flames until the early hours of Wednesday morning. The fire was successfully extinguished and prevented from causing more widespread damage.

The NPWS is now probing the circumstances behind the fire. Burning vegetation is illegal between March 1 and August 31, and also requires notification where it will be within one mile of a state forest.

Now NPWS, in association with Coillte, aim to combat the spread of wildfires through the use of drones. The pilot scheme will first be rolled out to the Wicklow and Dublin Mountains.

Speaking at the Coillte Headquarters in Newtownmountkennedy, Pat Neville, Coillte Communications Manager, said: 'We are delighted to join with the NPWS on their initiative to tackle the growing risk of forest fires. Utilising this technology will allow drones to become our eyes in the skies, and enable our teams to spot the earliest moment a fire starts, helping to save not only the environment but most importantly people's lives.'

In 2018, over 600 hectares of the Coillte estate was damaged by forest fires, costing the State over €4 million to manage.

Drones can be equipped with infrared cameras that peer through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other weather variables that affect how fires spread. They will capture continuous footage of areas deem as high-risk and spot small fires that otherwise could not have been detected until they had become much larger and harder to contain.

Wicklow People