Tuesday 22 October 2019

Wicklow wildfires rage for two days

Wicklow fire service battled more than 10 wildfires across the county , writes Deborah Coleman

Wildfires burning on the outskirts of Hollywood
Wildfires burning on the outskirts of Hollywood

Wicklow Fire Service was mobilised to in excess of 10 wildfires in rural locations across the county over a two-day period on Tuesday and Wednesday last.

The fires are believed to have been started as 'controlled' fires to keep vegetation under control but according to Wicklow Uplands Council, simply because a fire is lit within the season for permitted controlled fires, does not mean always it is safe to do so.

The first fire reported to Wicklow Fire Services was at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at Glencree which officers dealt with before monitoring another blaze which had spread from Dublin towards Kippure. Further incidents were reported in Granamore near the King River, the Sally Gap, Ballynastockan where a large fire had broken out on the mountain near Lacken.

A short time later Dunlavin Fire Brigade attended a scene at Hollywood, perhaps the most serious of incidents which spread towards houses on the outskirts of the town.

Baltinglass Fire Crew was alerted to assist but no evacuations were required as the crews got the gorse fire under control as quickly as possible.

Such was the demand on Wicklow fire crews, that backup was sought from neighbouring Naas Fire Service which attended a forest fire at Tulfarris and Tallaght and Newbridge attended a house fire reported at Butterhill, Blessington which turned out to be a false alarm due to large volumes of smoke from a wildfire nearby.

These visiting crews were stood down but Naas and Blessington then moved to Hollywood where they worked on damage control until 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning.

February 27 was just as busy for fire crews whose first call was for Bray to attend a small gorse fire in Glencree. Access proved difficult and a helicopter from the Air Corps was drafted in to assist.

Later this helicopter identified a serious fire on the Wicklow - Dublin border at Cruagh and Tibradden Woods, and a second helicopter was provided which fought the fire until 4 p.m.

Further south, Rathdrum dealt with a wildfire in Laragh while in the west of the county Dunlavin crew was called out to Granabeg Lower.

For the rest of the night, fires which continued to burn across the county including near the Defence Forces camp in Kilbride, were monitored by Parks and Wildlife Service, Coillte and Wicklow County Fire Service.

In a statement, Wicklow Uplands Council urged people to be extremely careful when lighting fires, pointing out that they can put the safety of people and property at risk.

'The current permissive season for the burning and cutting of upland vegetation ended on February 28. There is a perception among some that burning within the permissive season is "controlled", while outside the season is "uncontrolled,"' said Brian Dunne, coordinator of Wicklow Uplands Council.

The group has reiterated its calls for the implementation of the Heritage Act 2018, which will allow for the controlled burning of vegetation in March when conditions are not conducive in the preceding months. 'The current dry spell is exceptional, as it is often the case that controlled burning cannot be carried out effectively within the current permissive season. Again, we reiterate that we only support controlled burning and the best management of upland habitats,' Mr Dunne added.

Wicklow People