Gardai vow to find those who started massive gorse fires that ravaged bogland

The night sky lit bright by the flames near Barna on Monday night. Photo: Clint Coen

The night sky lit bright by the flames near Barna on Monday night. Photo: Clint Coen

Gardai in Salthill and county Galway have confirmed that a hunt is under way to find whoever lit the gorse fires that ravaged bogland near Barna and Oranmore on Monday and Tuesday.

The investigation has started after a weekend in which fire crews received in excess of 50 calls to battle gorse fires at various part of the county.

The battle to fight the flames and keep them away from residential properties occupied almost all of the fire fighting resources in the city and county with crews from all stations called in to take part.

Galway chief fire officer Michael Raftery said city crews had to call in assistance from fire units based in Tuam, Athenry and Loughrea, due to the extent and intensity of the blazes.

Trenches were dug in the Barna area when it seemed possible that the flames might stretch to residential properties and city hostel Kinlay House offered accommodation to any families who might have had to be evacuated because of the fire.

In Frenchfort, Oranmore, smoke from the fires drifted across the main roadways and caused some traffic disturbance, while gardaí had to divert motorists away from a section of the Spiddal to Moycullen road as the smoke was so thick in the region. The flames from the Barna fire could be seen across Galway Bay.

Although firefighters said that it is difficult to ascertain how the fires started, gardai have confirmed that an investigation into the blaze is very much alive. Lighting of gorse to clear land is deemed illegal and there are restrictions in place to prevent burning of land during the dry period of March to August.

The Garda helicopter helped in the operation yesterday in identifying the trail of the fire so that a successful strategy would be developed to contain the blaze.

Gardai have appealed for information on the fires. Anyone who can help identify how the fires started is asked to contact them at 091 514720.

The fire in Oranmore was eventually controlled at 4.30am on Tuesday while the Barna fires were extinguished early yesterday (Wednesday ) There were concerns also about the effect that the fire would have on the wildlife living in the gorselands.

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