A number of this weekend’s fires started deliberately, Coillte confirms

May 8th, 2017

A number of the fires which raged across the country over the weekend were started deliberately, Coillte confirmed this afternoon.

The forestry company said that while the risk of gorse and forest fires increased with the recent dry weather, many fires on Coillte property over the past week were started deliberately.

Various fire brigades, together with the Air Corps and Defence Forces, were called upon to deal with major fires in counties Sligo, Kildare and Mayo.

Gorse fires continued to burn in counties Cork, Wicklow and Cavan today. It is illegal to burn any living vegetation between 1st March and 31st August under the Wildlife Act 1976.

The damage caused is the worst to Collite’s estate since 2011, according to Coillte Forest’s Managing Director Gerard Murphy, and will result in a “multimillion euro bill”.

“In addition to the damage caused to commercial forestry, these forest fires pose a significant risk to farmland, native woodland and areas designated for nature conservation,” he added.

Residential homes were also under threat, with the home of a family of five burning down in county Mayo last Friday. It is believed that the two-storey house close caught fire as sparks landed on the thatched roof of the building.

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.

According to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS), over 90 per cent of the 221 gorse fires it has dealt with since the start of May were started deliberately.

Three separate fires also broke out in the Sligo-Leitrim area in recent days, including one which 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.

According to Fine Gael TD for Sligo-Leitrim, Tony McLoughlin, landowners are “now counting the costs” in the aftermath.

“It took four stations of the Sligo fire brigade to bring the gorse fire at Killerry mountain on the Sligo-Leitrim border- which covers an approximate area of 4,000 acres- under control,” he said.

“Unfortunately the illegal burning of vegetation is often to blame for these fires, and I urge people not to start them deliberately.”

One of the largest fires broke out in the Curragh, Co Kildare on Sunday evening as both the Kildare and Dublin Fire Brigade fought the blaze, together with firefighters from the Defence Forces.

Several other gorse fires were reported across the country, including in Eshbrack Bog, Co Monaghan and in the Cuilcagh Mountain, Co Fermanagh.