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Dublin: 8 °C Sunday 16 June, 2019
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Air Corps deployed to battle blazes in six different counties

The Air Corps has responded to requests in Dublin, Wicklow, Limerick, Cork, Tipperary and Offaly.

An Air Corps helicopter collecting water from Lower Lough Bray to help combat wildfires.
An Air Corps helicopter collecting water from Lower Lough Bray to help combat wildfires.
Image: Defence Forces

THE DEFENCE FORCES have deployed the Air Corps to assist firefighting operations for a sixth consecutive day today as wildfires continue to break out across the country as a result of the hot weather.

Following a request from the civil authorities, the Air Corps has responded to requests in Dublin, Wicklow, Limerick, Cork, Tipperary and Offaly.

Overall, it has dropped around 300,000 litres of water using specialised equipment.

Agusta Westland AW139 helicopters have been utilised as they can be equipped with a Bambi bucket aerial firefighting system capable of dropping 1,200 litres of water per pass.

This amount of water, concentrated in small areas, makes an immediate impact on wildfires, according to the Defence Forces.

Offaly

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One, Offaly Fire Service’s senior assistant chief fire officer said that they got a call yesterday afternoon reporting fires on the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

Currently, there are four fire brigades battling the blazes on the mountain.

A private helicopter from Coillte was brought in, dropping water on hotspots throughout the forestry and gorse, according to the senior assistant chief fire officer.

An Air Corps helicopter is due to assist this afternoon.

The Cut Road between Clonaslee and Mountrath had been closed yesterday, and ‘feeder roads’ from Kinnitty, Cadamstown, Mountmellick to Slieve Blooms should be avoided, fire services said.

“It’s now a number of weeks without any rain whatsoever and so when the vegetation gets extremely dry, it can get ignited extremely easily and it spreads very, very quickly. We had a bit of wind last night as well which didn’t help,” the senior assistant chief fire officer said.

Speaking of conditions on the mountain today, he added: “Today the weather is completely different to yesterday.  We have a lot of cloud cover here, which is actually making conditions an awful lot more favourable for us.

“Vegetation is not as hot as it was yesterday and it’s also making it easier for firefighters to fight. They’re not having to deal with temperatures of the sun as well.”

Other fires

Ireland’s current heatwave has seen the longest period of sustained heat in five years.

Met Éireann’s Climatology & Observations Division yesterday issued a warm weather report for June up to Monday.

The report shows that the hottest June temperature in over 40 years was recorded last Thursday at Shannon Airport, where the thermostats hit 32 degrees Celsius. That made it the highest June temperature since 1976, when Boora in Offaly hit 32.5 degrees.

As a result, fires have been breaking out across the country over the past week.

On Tuesday, Dublin Fire Brigade was called to grass on fire on the Oscar Traynor Road in Coolock.

It also responded to gorse on fire in Blackglen Road in Sandyford, at the edge of the Dublin mountains.

On Monday, a family escaped their car which had left the road on the Dublin Mountains after smoke from a heather fire suddenly changed direction.

Last Thursday, the Air Corps was called in to assist in Co Wicklow as fire crews worked to protect homes.

The Air Corps has also provided a Eurocopter EC135 as a command and control platform and a CASA CN235 Maritime Patrol Aircraft, which is equipped with power sensors and radar, to identify other areas affected throughout Ireland.

The Defence Forces said these operations are ongoing and that it is prepared to continue firefighting operations in support of the communities.

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