Galway forest fire 'escalates' in high winds and warm temperatures

The blaze has now spread outside Coillte owned land

Galway forest fire 'escalates' in high winds and warm temperatures

Image via @IrishAirCorps on Twitter

A forest fire at Cloosh Valley in Galway has escalated due to high winds and warm temperatures.

A regional emergency response operation is in place as the fire spread outside of Coillte owned land.

Coillte staff - along with the fire service, army and Air Corps - are battling to bring the fire under control.

It is hoped there will be some respite as temperatures are expected to drop tonight.

At Galway Wind Park, Ireland’s largest wind farm currently under constructed within the valley, three units of Galway Fire Service have been on site to tackle fire events in close proximity to its infrastructure.

The forest fire at Cloosh is also threatening the welfare of many homes and local communities, as well as causing devastation to vast areas of wildlife habitat.

The fire is currently on three separate fronts, the longest of which stretches across an 8km long area.

20 to 30 fires across the country

Coillte says approximately 1,500 hectares of forestry and 2,000 of bog land has been destroyed in total.

In a statement, the foreestry service says it "greatly appreciates the tremendous assistance it continues to receive from the defence forces and emergency services, whose lives are put at significant risk in combating these forest fires.

"A Coillte-deployed helicopter was joined this afternoon by a helicopter from the Air Corps, which is on-site to support these efforts.

"While the cause of the fire at Cloosh Valley has yet to be definitively established, it is believed that the fire originated from deliberately set gorse fires, which subsequently spread into Coillte owned forestry."

The view from 16,000ft of the fires burning in Galway | Image via @IrishAirCorps on Twitter

Overall, it is estimated that 20 to 30 fires are ongoing across the country - however, Cloosh Valley is by far the most serious.

Coillte are 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.

Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to set fires to growing vegetation from March 1st to August 31st.

Those found responsible for deliberately starting fires can be prosecuted.