Forest fire leaves scorched earth in its wake

Members of the Defence Forces who extinguished gorse fires near Inverin last week. In the backround are the wind turbines and Cloosh Valley area.

THE fall-out from last week’s forest fire in the Cloosh Valley will take a generation to repair.

This week, Coillte and wildlife experts have been counting the cost of the fire that raged for over a week through an estimated 7,000 plus acres of forestry and bogland south-west of Oughterard village.

The devastated area was also visited by Junior Agriculture Minister, Andrew Doyle – he said that he was appalled at the devastation caused by last week’s wildfire.

He also hit out at individuals who deliberately set-off gorse fires at a time of extremely dry weather when there was the strong possibility that such fires would spiral out of control.

His warning was echoed by Galway District Judge Mary Fahy who warned that people who persist in the illegal burning of gorse will face prison if convicted.

Judge Fahy was speaking at Derrynea District Court after convicting a city man of burning gorse at a bog in Baile na hAbhann last autumn.

Minister Doyle, meanwhile warned landowners that not alone would they face the full force of the law – but in addition land found to have been burned during the specified closed season for burning would be considered ‘automatically ineligible’ under the various support schemes.

The rains of last weekend eventually put paid to the fire that – at one point last week – threatened the entire forest area of 10,000 acres as well as some local homes and also the Cloosh Valley wind-park, the biggest of its kind in the country.

Coillte have confirmed that it will take ‘many, many years’ for the damage to be rectified. The total cost is expected to run into millions of euro.

The fire also led to a high level of air pollution in the Galway city area last Tuesday evening (May 10) – 20 times more than normal – and worse than one of the most polluted cities in the world, Beijing in China. City householders described the texture of the air that evening as resembling ‘grey snow’.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.