‘Extremely fortunate’ no one died in fire at popular Wexford beach

Investigations are continuing into large blaze that ripped through 13 acres at Curracloe

Aerial footage shows the aftermath of the fire at Curacloe beach, Co. Wexford with large areas burnt out. The Air Corps assisted Wexford Fire Service by dropping 44,400 litres of water on the fire. Video: Irish Air Corps / Jack Meehan

 

Investigations are continuing into a large fire that ripped through 13 acres of land at Curracloe beach in Co Wexford on Sunday.

Hundreds of tourists and bathers had to leave the beach as the fire spread rapidly through marram grass, threatening nearby mobile homes and a number of local businesses.

While there was speculation the fire may have been started by a disposable barbecue, gardaí said their investigations were ongoing and they could not confirm the cause at this stage.

Wicklow Fire Service arrived on the scene after a call by a member of the public just before 11am on Sunday and units remained there until the fire was extinguished at 10.30pm.

John Carley, director of services at Wexford County Council, said it would take “very little” to start a fire in current conditions.

“Generally in these incidents, they tend to be accidental,” he said. “There is no evidence to suggest otherwise.

“We would like the public to be mindful of how dry the ground is and not to throw cigarettes on the ground or use disposable barbecues.”

Mr Carley said 13 acres of the 84-acre sand dune area were affected by the fire.

The Air Corps assisted the Wexford Fire Service operation, dropping 44,400l of water on the fire.

The council said local farmers also assisted.

It said there had been concerns about the risk of fire throughout the county during the recent dry spell and it had assigned wardens to the beach to try to deal with the issue of camping in the sand dunes.

The council said private security guards and gardaí also assisted in helping to prevent camping in the area.

“The area continues to be very, very dry and at a continuing risk of fire. We appeal to the public to heed warnings, [and] not to use barbecues in the beach area,” a statement from the council said.

“The fire is under investigation by the gardaí. The environment section of the council have inspected the extensive damage and are examining ways of remediating the dune system and seeking expert advice.”

Forest fire warning

An orange forest fire warning remains in place until Wednesday. The Department of Agriculture has advised the public not to light fires in and around forests or open land.

“Arising from preceding drought conditions, a high fire risk remains in all areas where hazardous fuels exist,” it said. “Fire risk condition is likely to be moderated on a localised basis by scattered light rain, cooler temperatures and higher ambient humidity levels in many areas.”

Met Éireann has issued a yellow weather advisory for Leinster and Munster until Wednesday. The forecaster said soil moisture deficits will generally remain in excess of 75mm over the coming week.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe said it was “extremely fortunate” no one died or was injured in the fire.

“There has been a huge amount of damage done,” the Wexford TD told RTÉ Radio 1 on Monday. “The dunes are adjacent to a mobile home park and individual mobile homes as well, and also a number of businesses based at Curracloe beach.

“This could have been a totally different situation. We are extremely fortunate there were no fatalities or no injuries.”

Wexford Fine Gael councillor Oliver Walsh said that “everywhere is so dry, it’s like a tinderbox around here at the moment.

“There was a huge crowd on the beach at the time, hundreds. Thankfully the emergency services were there fairly quick, they did a great job.”

There was no damage to property in the incident.

A Leinster Open Sea swimming event planned for 12.45pm on Sunday was abandoned due to the outbreak, while local surf school, Surf Shack Curracloe, cancelled surfing lessons because of the “crazy” dune fires.