Scramblers and quad bikes in frame for big Kildare bog fire

Still burning fire ‘has damaged a lot of flora, fauna ... and considerable wildlife habitat’

The fire flared up again on Sunday due to high winds in the area. File photograph: Getty

The fire flared up again on Sunday due to high winds in the area. File photograph: Getty

 

Gardaí believe youths on quad bikes and scramblers may have caused a massive blaze which continues to burn on bogland in Co Kildare.

The fire beside the Bord Na Móna Drehid waste management disposal plant started on Friday. It was brought under control by several units of Kildare Fire Service with the aid of Air Corps helicopters which used “bambi buckets” to drop water on the flames.

However the fire flared up again on Sunday due to high winds in the area, raising local fears it would spread to the landfill site and cause the emission of toxic fumes.

The blaze is under control but will continue to burn for some time, said Kildare’s assistant chief fire officer Ben Woodhouse. “It’s quite the spectacle, he said, shortly after returning from the scene on Monday. Several units remain in the area to ensure it remains contained.

The landfill is not in danger but the fire is still emitting large amounts of smoke which is blowing in a southwesterly direction. Mr Woodhouse advised locals who are elderly or who have breathing difficulties to keep their windows closed.

The fire started on bogland which is covered by scrub, tress and gorse. “It has damaged a lot of flora and fauna and I’m sure a lot of wildlife habitat,” Mr Woodhouse said.

The land, which is located in Killinagh upper near Carbury, is owned by Bord Na Móna and is private property. The company has made a complaint to gardaí.

A Garda source said young people on scramblers and quad bikes are believed to have started the fire inadvertently with their vehicles. Groups of youths have been seen drinking and riding bikes around the area in recent weeks.

“They’re going up there from Dublin where it’s relatively isolated to avoid the {Covid-19] checkpoints and patrols on the roads,” said a garda.

It is thought the bikes’ engines, chains or exhausts may have ignited the dry underbrush

Mr Woodhouse said he cannot say if the vehicles were responsible but that firefighters saw “up to 12 scramblers and quad bikes in and around the area of the lands which were on fire”.

‘Six weeks of dry weather’

Bord Na Móna staff had previously asked the young people to leave the area as it is private property.

Scramblers and quad bikes are a fire risk, said Mr Woodhouse, particularly given the “very, very dry conditions after six weeks of dry weather”. He appealed to people not to use the bikes in the area.

Local Social Democrat Cllr Aidan Farrelly said there was a lot of local concern over the weekend about the environmental impact of the fire and the risk of toxic fumes from the landfill

“If it was caused [by these bikes], at a time like this that is . . . irresponsible.”

The Drehid landfill plant extracts gas from municipal waste and can produce up to 5.6 megawatts of renewable power – enough to power 8,500 homes.

Drehid is one of the State’s largest landfill sites in the country, with a 120,000 tonnes per annum capacity and a 25,000 tonnes per annum composting facility.