June 9th, 2018
A large forest fire on the Slieve Bloom Mountains continued to rage over the weekend as firefighters work for the sixth consecutive day to contain the blaze.
The Offaly and Laois Fire Services have worked tirelessly together with Coillte since last Wednesday to contain the fire to a small area on the Laois-Offaly border.
Helicopter water drops continued into the weekend, with the fire service urging people to avoid travelling to the area as it may “hamper operations”.
Last week the Fire Service closed off the Cut Road between Clonaslee and Mountmellick due to the potential danger to the general public.
There is an area of blanket bog and a Hen Harrier habitat close to where the fire broke out. According to Ricky Whelan of Birdwatch Ireland, the fire was “creeping onto blanket bog” on Wednesday evening.
Mr Whelan, who lives in the Laois area, said that the area is a “prime Hen Harrier and Red Grouse haunt”.
A medium-sized raptor with a wide wingspan, the Hen Harrier is currently Amber-listed due to a decline in the breeding population.
The national population has declined for the last 40 years with only 108 to 157 breeding pairs left in the entire country.
The ground-nesting bird breeds in bogs and has also been impacted by coniferous forest plantations, agricultural land reclamation, peat extraction and wind farm development.
While the Red Grouse population is deemed stable in Europe, it is Red-listed in Ireland due to a significant decline in breeding numbers.
Gorse fires across the country
The State has extended an extreme fire risk warning again until at least the end of this week as high temperatures and drought conditions influence a glut of gorse fires across the country.
Numerous gorse and grass fires have ignited or started maliciously during the hot, dry weather, with firefighters across the country battling blazes over the past few ten days.
The Department of Agriculture said that the fire risk is “compounded” by high levels of ignitions activity and “observed fire behaviour” associated with current weather conditions.
“DAFM advise at this point that all outdoor use of fires, barbeques and other open ignition sources be avoided on forest lands and in other high-risk areas until further notice,” the statement reads.
“Extreme caution is also advised with respect to haymaking and the use of machinery and other agricultural activity that may also present a risk of fire in dry vegetation on cultivated land types in current conditions.”
According to Met Eireann, it will remain warm and dry this week with rainfall of less than 4mm for the “bulk of the country”.