Wave of gorse fires cause devastation across the island of Ireland

Published by Niall Sargent on

May 8th, 2017

A wave of gorse fires over the weekend has caused devastation across the island of Ireland, including the burning down of the home of a family of five in county Mayo last Friday.

It is believed that the two-storey house close to Kiltimagh caught fire as sparks from the fire hit the thatched roof of the building. The owner, Bernice Brennan, said that it was a “frightening” experience as the flame spread closer to the house where she lived together with her husband and their three young children.

“It [the fire] started a mile or more away from our house. The flames came closer and closer. The wind changed direction. I phoned for extra fire brigade units after roadside trees exploded into flames. It was frightening. All the village was out trying to stop the fire spreading,” she said, speaking to The Irish Times.

The Defence Forces and Kildare Fire Service were also called into action last night on the Curragh plains in Co Kildare to deal with a gorse fire which started around 10pm. It is the second major fire to break out in the area since mid-April. The fire spread close to the Defence Forces’ firing ranges and the Curragh Golf Club before subsiding earlier today.

A further fire, which broke out last Wednesday in Sligo, spread across the Ox Mountains over the weekend. The Air Corps were brought in to help control the spread of the fire, using a Bambi Bucket to drop 1,000 litres of water at a time on the flames.

Several other gorse fires were reported across the country, including in Eshbrack Bog, Co Monaghan and in the Cuilcagh Mountain, Co Fermanagh. Gorse fires at Glassamucky mountain in Co Wicklow and Monesk on the Cavan/Leitrim border continue to burn as of this morning.

In the north, locals on Barley Lane, Newry were forced to temporarily evacuate their homes at the weekend as eight fire engines and 60 firefighters fought a blaze in Co Down.

The fire near St Mary’s High School was brought under control in the small hours of Saturday morning and is believed to have been started deliberately, according to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS).

The fire service has attended 221 gorse fires since the start of the month, with over 150 incidents on Friday night alone. According to the NIFRS, over 90 per cent of the fires were deliberately started.

“Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us,” said NIFRS Area Commander, Maurice Rafferty. “It means deploying Firefighters and equipment to remote locations. This can be for prolonged periods of time with our Crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control.

“We are appealing to everyone within the local community to be aware of the dangers and consequences of deliberate fire setting.  It ties up our vital resources from other more serious incidents and potentially puts people and property at risk,” he added.

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Niall Sargent

Niall is the Editor of The Green News. He is a multimedia journalist, with an MA in Investigative Journalism from City University, London