Air Corps requested as thousands of acres "at major risk" from fire

Coillte says the damage is the worst its endured since 2011

Air Corps requested as thousands of acres "at major risk" from fire

Image: Sligo County Council/Twitter

The Irish forestry service Coillte says thousands of acres of forest, moorland and wildlife are now "at major risk of destruction" due to a major forest fire at Cloosh Valley in Galway.

It is also warning that Ireland's largest wind farm, Galway Wind Park, is located within this forest, and is at close proximity to the fire.

A helicopter has been on site at Cloosh Valley for the past two days working to extinguish the fire, but it says the situation is escalating.

The local fire brigade has now been called in to help protect the wind farm and Coillte have also requested support from the Air Corps.

Recent forest fires around the country have resulted in hundreds of hectares of productive commercial forestry being destroyed - and Coillte says this has the potential to run into thousands of hectares if fires, such as the one in Cloosh Valley, continue.

"These forest fires have also threatened the welfare of many homes and local communities, as well as causing devastation to vast areas of wildlife habitat", it says.

"Multimillion euro bill"

Commenting on the damage, the managing director of Coillte Forest Gerard Murphy said: "The recent outbreak of fires, particularly across the west and north of the country, has been responsible for the worst damage to Coillte’s estate since 2011.

"The combined loss of productive timber, together with the cost of replanting the affected areas will result in a multimillion euro bill."

"In addition to the damage caused to commercial forestry, these forest fires pose a significant risk to farmland, native woodland and areas designated for nature conservation."

Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to set fires to growing vegetation from March 1st to August 31st - and those found responsible for deliberately starting fires can be prosecuted.

Recent dry and windy weather has greatly increased the risk of gorse and forest fire, but deliberate fire setting has also been a significant factor in the cause of many of the fires on Coillte property around the country.

Sligo

Earlier this month, emergency services in Sligo attended an extensive gorse fire in Killery Mountain.

The blaze covered an extensive area including forestry at Ballintogher, affecting an area of approximately 4,000 acres. 

Additional reporting: Jack Quann