Deliberately set gorse fires blamed for Cloosh Valley catastrophe

Hopes that fires may begin to die down as this evening as temperatures expected to drop

A helicopter dropping water over the Cloosh Valley fire yesterday.

A helicopter dropping water over the Cloosh Valley fire yesterday.

The fire in Cloosh Valley near Oughterard, which has destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of forestry is believed to have originated from deliberately set gorse fires, which subsequently spread into Coillte owned forestry.

A regional emergency response operation is now in place as Coillte staff, along with the fire service, army and air-corps, battle to bring the fire under control. It is hoped there will be some respite to the situation later this evening as temperatures are expected to drop. 

The exact cause of the fire has yet to be established, but it has already caused significant damage to the Cloosh Valley forest, the largest in Ireland, with c1,500 hectares of forestry and c2,000 of bog land now destroyed. Collate say it will take 25 years to replenish the tock already lost.

After some respite on Monday morning, the fire escalated during the afternoon as high winds and warm temperatures combined to spread the fire outside of Coillte owned land. The fires have been of such intensity that smoke was spreading across coastal and western Galway yesterday afternoon, making it’s way as far as Galway city.

The fire at Cloosh is currently on three separate fronts, the longest of which stretches across an 8km long area. Two helicopters were operating over the site, using 1,200 litre capacity 'bambi buckets' to drop water to counter the flames. A helicopter from the Air Corps is on-site to support the efforts.

Three units of Galway Fire Service are on site to tackle fires close to the 169MW Galway Wind Park, the State’s largest wind farm, which is currently under constructed within the valley. The fire at is also threatening the welfare of many homes and local communities, as well as causing devastation to vast areas of wildlife habitat. 

Coillte is urging the public stay away from any areas affected by these fires and to immediately report any uncontrolled or unattended fires to the Fire and Emergency Services.

Coillte said it “appreciates the tremendous assistance we continue to receive from the defence forces and emergency services, whose lives are put at significant risk in combating these forest fires”.

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