The Irish armed forces were deployed to assist civilian fire fighters in a battle to control gorse fires in the west of Ireland over the weekend. Last night the fires, which had raged for three days were finally brought under control, but fire chiefs warn there is still a danger that the blazes could flare up again.
More than 100 troops and three Air Corps helicopters were drafted in to help fight the fires, which destroyed thousands of acres of gorse scrub and forest, threatening homes and devastating prime upland wildlife habitat. To date more than 200,000 litres of water have been dropped on the fires to bring them under control.
The worst hit areas were in Doochary, Leitir and Dungloe areas of west Donegal where yesterday fire fighters continued to tackle a 20km-wide blaze that was sweeping across more than 300sq km of upland habitat. Smoke from the fires was even visible from space, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite (see image).
Wildlife rangers are still assessing the devastation to flora and fauna caused by the fires, which swept through a number of Special Areas of Conservation. There is ongoing speculation that the fires were started deliberately, and Gardai are appealing for witnesses to come forward with information.