It took 32 hours to quell a gorse fire which spread over 4,000 acres of 'outstanding natural beauty'

Over 60 gorse fires have occurred since March of this year.

THE COASTGUARD HELICOPTER was drafted in to help quell a gorse fire which spread across 4,000 acres of a remote and inaccessible part of Sligo yesterday.

It took over 32 hours to bring the latest fire in the Ballintogher area of Sligo under control. As of 10.30pm last night, it was under control. While there are still some pockets of smouldering grass, they do not pose a serious threat to locals, according to Tom Kilfeather of Sligo County Council.

He said that there were 50 fire officers at the scene of the flames last night and local units were assisted by the Coastguard as well as fire officers from Donegal.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, Kilfeather said: “We will be keeping the situation under observation today. As the forecast is very good for the weekend, we would be concerned there might be an escalation.

We’ve no reason to think it was set maliciously. But sometimes, a carelessly discarded cigarette can quickly escalate into what has been a devastating fire in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

“The difficulty for Sligo County Council is that the area is very inaccessible so dealing with the fire was quite a challenge.  At the height of the incident, we had 50 fire personnel on site in this situation we were very thankful.

“Rescue 118 were invaluable for us. Fire officers could view the fire from above and see where everything was happening. It was invaluable.”

Over 60 gorse fires have occurred since March of this year, according to the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT), who have said that stricter punishments must be handed down to farmers who purposely set their land on fire in a bid to receive a government subsidy. There is no suggestion that the Sligo fire was set maliciously.

Spokesman for the IWT, Padraig Fogarty, explained: “This happens every year. There have been 60 or so fires since March and the cause is people starting fires. You have fewer people on the hills, therefore more growth. To get the Government subsidy, the land has to be in a grazeable condition. To get that into condition, there’s only one thing that does it quickly and that’s fire.

The damage is enormous this has been going on for years. The wildlife that was there has been gone for years. We need new solutions.

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