Wicklow forest fire now under control as people warned not to light campfires and barbecues

Members of the Fire Services beating the flames back.

Seoirse Mulgrew and Paul Hyland

Fire crews have largely brought under control a significant blaze that engulfed a popular Co Wicklow woodland area shortly after early this morning.

At 1am, the Wicklow Fire Service – including crews from Bray, Blessington and Greystones – was tasked to tackle the fire which broke out at Crone Woods, near Enniskerry.

Footage circulating online showed large plumes of smoke rising as the fire spread across the woodland.

The crews fought through the night and the Air Corps was contacted and requested to send a helicopter which could drop water from above.

Meanwhile, the commercial forestry service Coilte also sourced a private helicopter to help with the extinguishing effort.

Crone Woods is a popular Coillte forest in north Co Wicklow near Powerscourt House and Gardens.

Wicklow’s chief fire officer Aidan Dempsey said the area consists of “very difficult terrain” and crews tackled the blaze with water and rubber beaters.

He said the fire service has now stood down for the evening and Coilte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are working on “small areas that they are happy to extinguish” with the private helicopter.

Rain is forecast for the area tonight but it is hoped the fire will be put out before then

He said the “hope” is that the fire service will not be required further.

“We were surprised by the extent and the ferocity of the fire. Normally we would hope that one station or crew might be able to deal with it. We needed to deploy three crews from three different stations,” he said.

“The Air Corps made a very positive impact and the private helicopter worked through the afternoon to further extinguish most of the fire… It’s the worst fire we’ve had in the last two years.”

It is still not known the exact size of the area which was impacted, however, Mr Dempsey said the fire spread through Crone Woods and “burned” open hill land in the adjoining national park. He confirmed that a number of “mature trees” were destroyed but no buildings were damaged.

A spokesperson for Coillte said it is too early to determine the source of ignition of this fire.

"There is a National Status Orange Forest Fire Warning in place and Coillte is asking the public to avoid the use of all outdoor fires and other open ignition sources such as barbeques and cigarettes at this time,” the spokesperson said.

“Coillte request that all members of the public and visitors to recreational areas should cooperate with all requests regarding fire safety, obey all relevant bye-laws and be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

“Forest fires pose a serious health and safety risk to the public and to people working in the forest sector. They are very difficult to control and put firefighters and forest personnel at great risk in their efforts to extinguish them.

"They cause ecological and environmental damage to wildlife and to protected habitats and species that can take years to recover from.”

Meanwhile, Mr Dempsey said given the “small but serious” number of incidents the fire service responds to each year, most people do act responsibly in woodland areas.

“Unfortunately, a small number of people, be they out hiking or camping, have ignored the advice and we believe that is what has led to the small number of fires we’ve been dealing with over the last three to four days,” he added.

Local councillor Melanie Corrigan said there needs to be a national warning in relation to the danger and risks associated with forest fires.

“They’re not sure whether it was a cigarette or a barbeque that was accidentally put down and got reignited because it’s so dry up here at the moment, and so hot,” she said.

“It’s just really unfortunate because again it’s putting our fire service at risk as well. There’s a lot of livestock and everything in that area, it’s a hard-to-reach area so it’s just very unfortunate that it’s happened.

“I think more of a national warning needs to go out, there were campers in Knocksink woods at the weekend and we had to alert the park rangers because they had lit little fires down there. It’s something that’s starting to happen more and more, and I think the public need to be educated more on this.”

The blaze comes as the number of extreme wildfires is expected to increase by 30pc within the next 28 years, according to a February 2022 UN report.

More than 30 wildfires continue to ravage parts of Spain, with authorities paying special attention to four blazes in Castile and Leon and Galicia.

In Losacio, in northwestern Zamora province, where two people have died and three people were critically injured, more than 6,000 people in 32 villages have been evacuated.

In Galicia, more than 1,500 people have been evacuated from the path of four fires, with several buildings damaged.

So far this year 173,000 acres have been burned in the country, around twice the average of the last decade, official data showed before the heatwave.

In neighbouring Portugal, around 50 municipalities, mainly in central and northern regions, still faced "maximum risk" of wildfires, according to the IPMA weather institute.

More than 1,000 firefighters were battling five main wildfires, the biggest of which started in the northern municipality of Murça and spread to two nearby municipalities.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated from villages and an elderly couple was found dead on Monday inside a burned-out car.

Major fires also continued to burn in the Gironde area of southwestern France, where 34,000 people have been evacuated.

Some 2,000 firefighters supported by water-bombing aircraft were fighting the blazes, which started a week ago and have burned around 47,700 acres.

In Greece, firefighters had tackled 73 fires within 24 hours, the fire brigade said on Monday. The civil protection authority has warned of a very high risk of fires across the country on Tuesday.