Outbreak of bog fires 'worst yet'


FORESTRY COMPANY Coillte says that the current spate of gorse, bog and woodland fires in the west are the “worst yet” in recent years.

Fires in Connemara had been brought under control yesterday evening, but the regional fire service headquarters in Mayo said its staff were still very busy with continued call-outs.

Coillte estimates that it will take at least €1 million to replace about 220 hectares of lost planting as a result of blazes this week in Oughterard, Clifden and Letterfrack.

“We’ve lost more acreage to date this year than over a 12-month period in previous years,” a spokesman said.

Five families had to be evacuated temporarily from housing late on Thursday night due to concerns over the spread of fire which broke out on bogland between Moycullen and Spiddal.

Coillte appealed to stock-owners not to burn off heather to clear ground for animals. A Coillte spokesman said it was illegal to burn vegetation between March 1st and August 31st under the Wildlife Act.

“This is having an enormous impact on wildlife habitats during the nesting season for birds,” the spokesman said. “People have also been putting their lives at risk and we would like to thank all the firefighters, volunteers and Coillte staff.”

At one point helicopters had to be deployed by Coillte to fight the blaze south of Oughterard, while a helicopter flew a survey of the area yesterday morning.

A fire on bogland at Attycunnane between Belmullet and Bangor Erris in north Mayo early yesterday morning has been brought under control. The thick smoke caused by the blaze forced closure for a time of the main road linking Belmullet and Bangor Erris.

Meanwhile in Co Kerry, it is estimated that some €400,000 is the cost of fighting the rash of wild fires in recent weeks. Most of the fires were deliberately started and all were illegal at this time of year, according to figures provided by the fire service and county council yesterday.

Kerry’s chief fire officer has said the county’s fire service is strained and that there was “a moral obligation” on those people setting mountain and bogland fires to behave responsibly. So far this month, there were 115 incidents of mountain, bogland and gorse fires.