Hundreds of acres of forestry destroyed by fire in Clare

Locals look on as raging fires sweep across Mount Callan on Wednesday night
Hundreds of acres of forestry were destroyed but several homes were saved during the worst gorse fires seen in Co Clare for several years, Pat Flynn reports for TMT.

At one point on Wednesday night, not a single firefighter or appliance from Co Clare's seven fire stations was available to respond to a call as they were all tied up with various incidents.

Crews from four stations spent almost 10 hours battling gorse and forestry blazes close to homes on Mount Callan in the west of the county.

The fires raged along both sides of a 4 kilometre stretch of the Ennis to Miltown Malbay R474 road which gardaĆ­ eventually had to close for safety reasons.

Fire personnel managed to save several properties including one home which was completely surrounded by fire at one point.

One farmer's shed was engulfed in flames however fire crews and locals battled to prevent the blaze spreading to other buildings. After this had been accomplished, a real fight to stop the fire spreading to forestry began.

Despite the best efforts of firefighters and locals, hundreds of acres of forestry were lost in the fires.

Landowner Michael Sexton, one of many locals who assisted fire crews, said: "It was a fierce and dangerous fire. It was along both sides of the road and you could feel the heat in the car as you passed. I stopped as many cars as I could and told them not to drive through."

"The smoke was so thick you could hardly get through it to reach the fires. The fire brigade were busy keeping the fires from some homes. It was really frightening," he added.
A helping hand from a local man
Locals are being urged to establish an emergency response group to deal with such fires in the future.

Local Councillor Michael Hillary said: "There are thousands of acres of forestry up on Mount Callan and several homes as well so it would probably be a good idea for locals to establish a group who can be contacted by text to respond and fight fires if it happens again. It takes years and years for forestry to mature but as we've seen it can be wiped out in just a few hours."

Senior Assistant Chief Fire Officer for Co Clare Angela Naughton said: “The current dry spell of weather will do little to reduce this risk although we are expecting some respite by the weekend.”

While the cause of Wednesday nights fires is still being investigated, the fire service has reiterated a warning issued earlier this week about burning waste.

“Uncontrolled burning can result in loss of life as well as damage to property. It is often mistakenly seen as a cheap method of managing waste and it is presumed not to be harmful to the environment, but nothing could be further from the truth,” Ms Naughton added.

Fire personnel from Gort in Co Galway had to be called in to deal with a road traffic collision in Ennis at the height of Wednesday's fires.

GardaĆ­ are investigating the cause of the outbreak.

Meanwhile, fire crews from Ennis and Kilrush were last night (Thursday) battling to control several fires which are believed to have been started maliciously in bog and forestry Kilmaley in Co Clare.

Several fires were reported at around 5.00pm. On arrival at the scene fire crews found hundreds of acres of scrub and bog well alight.

The fire had also spread into private forestry on one side of the road.

"This will take time. We're going to be here for a while. You'd have to wonder what kind of person would so this. They either don't realise or just don't care the danger they are putting people in," one firefighter said.

One local farmer said: "I'd put any money on it that some lout started these fires. There were too many small fires to have started without some help. They come up here and dump their rubbish and sometimes set fire to it. It a disgrace."

The fire service has confirmed that they will be working closely with An Garda to investigate the cause of the fires.