News

Barbecue may have ignited Slieve Bloom blaze

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Barbecue may have ignited Slieve Bloom blaze thumbnailCrew members from Mountmellick shown in this picture, taken on July 12, who are working along with Coillte staff at Barradoos Mountain. Photo Courtesy of Laois Fire & Rescue Service.

A BARBECUE may have been the cause of the fire that destroyed hundreds of acres of forestry and gorse in the Slieve Blooms.
“There are still reports of people going up to the Slieve Blooms with barbecues and looking for kindle," Clive Duke, assistant chief fire officer with Offaly County Council said on Monday.
Mr Duke said while it might never be possible to prove what started the fire, there was a suspicion it was a barbecue.
Mr Duke was speaking at a meeting of the County Council where he warned that a fire risk in the hills remained, even though temperatures have dropped.
“Even though we had rain yesterday the forest floor will still be very, very dry," he told councillors.
The blaze spread across a front of up to five miles from the Cut to Cadamstown and over in the direction of Clonaslee.
The first call was received from Coillte on Wednesday, July 4 and fire brigades from Birr and Ferbane responded, along with Mountmellick and Mountrath from Laois County Council.
Coillte also requested a private helicopter and Offaly County Council then made a request under the 'Aid to Civil Powers' to the Air Corps and army.
By the next day two helicopters were dropping water, guided by another observation helicopter and 30 personnel from the Defence Forces were in the mountains.
The battle against the blaze continued on the ground and from the air on Friday, July 6 with water tankers and slurry spreaders used and Birr fire brigade safeguarding the site of the communication masts at the Wolftrap on Friday evening.
Offaly and Laois fire service were still fighting the fire on Saturday and Sunday, and while there was no activity on Tuesday or Wednesday, July 9 and 10, Birr fire brigade was mobilised again last Wednesday for 12 hours.
On the Thursday, when the firefighting was at its fiercest, there were 124 personnel involved in the operation at the same time, amounting to 295.5 man hours for Offaly workers alone.
In total, 932.7 Offaly man hours were spent battling the blaze and the expected costs are between €25,000 and €30,000.
“That's just purely the Offaly fire service cost, that's not Laois and Coillte," said Mr Duke.
The digging of dams - holes to store water - were critical to the success of the project, said the assistant fire chief.
At first water was being lifted and flown from Clonaslee and Pallas lake but when dams were designed and created the response time was cut by 50 per cent.
“To my mind this hasn't been done before," said Mr Duke, adding that Coillte now hope to dig dams throughout the mountains.
The dams held 8,000 litres of water and the bucket capacity of the private helicopter, operated by Executive Helicopters, was 400 litres, while the Air Corps helicopter had a bucket capacity of 1,000 litres.
Two water tankers and two slurry spreaders kept the dams topped up.
Mr Duke repeated a call made during the operation to "fire tourists" to stay away from the mountains and he stressed that caution be continued in relation to fires and barbecues.
Elsewhere, a number of roadside verges went on fire at Clonlisk, Shinrone and on the Sragh Road in Tullamore.
Offaly County Council fire service also had to assist with a blaze in Carbury, Co Kildare.

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