Helicopter used in effort to halt Connemara gorse fires


A HELICOPTER was used in an effort to save a large forest in Connemara last evening after several gorse fires caused huge damage in the west of Co Galway.

The helicopter dumped water on the affected area in an attempt stop the fire from spreading.

The dry spell was being blamed for the fires which swept through forests and large areas of vegetation in Connemara.

Gardaí and Galway County Council issued an appeal to the public to be vigilant.

In particular they warned about the dangers of disposing of lighted matches and cigarette ends.

Extensive damage was caused at the State-owned Coillte forest in Moyard, between Clifden and Letterfrack.

Coillte staff in the nearby Inagh Valley have also been coping with a number of outbreaks in recent days. A large gorse fire was causing concern near Oughterard.

Locals and a privately owned helicopter were battling the blaze yesterday evening.

The helicopter was employed to dump hundreds of gallons of water onto the blaze site, which stretched for almost two miles at one point.

Connemara Councillor Eileen Mannion said yesterday that a prolonged dry spell at this time of the year inevitably led to the outbreaks, but she dispelled any suggestion that the fires were started deliberately.

“I don’t think there is any question of that, but I do think that there is an onus on everyone to be particularly careful in the countryside at this time of year, particularly when discarding cigarette butts.

“The staff at Clifden Fire Brigade have been working flat out over the last 10 days trying to cope with all the fires, and they deserve everyone’s support and co-operation,” Ms Mannion said.

Gorse fires have also been reported in Counties Kerry and Clare in recent weeks.

In Kerry, an area of several square kilometres close to a major forest in the Killarney National Park was destroyed by fire.