Wicklow fires force families to flee homes
Firefighters battle blaze as families evacuated from their homes
FAMILIES in Co. Wicklow were forced to flee homes after a gorse fire broke out on Bray Head, marking the first serious evacuation of the drought.
Last night the blaze appeared to be escalating to a ‘monster’, according to one county councillor, as the fire brigade continued to battle it.
Dart services were suspended between Bray and Greystones throughout the day due to the fire, which destroyed railway cables along the train line.
Meanwhile, the Irish Air Corps sought to assist the Wicklow Fire Services in putting out the fire but were forced to suspend their operation yesterday afternoon due to local drone users around Bray Head.
Shortly before 5pm, the Irish Air Corps and the Garda issued an appeal to drone users in the area to desist, as they were putting the Air Corps’ AW 139 helicopter in serious danger.
Wicklow county councillor Nicola Lawless told the Irish Daily Mail last night that the fire appeared to be ‘escalating to a monster of a fire at this stage – one of the worst ones I’ve seen in a long time at Bray Head’.
With a clear view of the blaze from her home, she said: ‘It’s pretty bad on the Bray side, you can’t see Bray Head at all.
‘Most of Bray Head at this stage looks like it’s engulfed in heavy, heavy smoke and a lot of flame.’
Ms Lawless paid tribute to the Fire Services and the Air Corps.
County councillor Derek Mitchell confirmed shortly before 6pm said last night that the fire was still raging. He said the fire ‘was spread over quite a wide area’, and appeared to be blowing up the southern side of the hill, which is a popular hillwalking destination for tourists.
‘This is the nearest fire to any houses so it’s unusually serious,’ Mr Mitchell said. ‘It has also seriously damaged the rail line.’
Several houses have been evacuated and Mr Mitchell urged everyone to stay out of the way so emergency services could do their job.
A spokesman for the Garda said he could not confirm the exact number of people evacuated.
Wicklow Fire Services continued to fight the fire throughout the evening as access remained difficult and smoke travelled down the hill towards Bray town.
According to the fire service, the blaze began in front of a tent at about 1am on Friday, spreading from there. The fire travelled from Bray Head down the cliff face to the Dart track below, leaving debris and causing damage to telecoms and signalling cabling.
Irish Rail staff were on site last night repairing the damage to cabling, while services remained suspended. A spokesman said Irish Rail hopes to resume services this morning.
Meanwhile, in Co. Cork, two firefighters were injured after responding to a fire at a timber plant in Lissarda. They were taken to Cork University Hospital and treated for minor injuries.
The alarm was raised in the early hours of yesterday. Nine fire units from Cork city and surrounding areas were able to contain the fire, which is understood to have broken out in the sawmill section of the Palfab plant. The area of the plant in which the blaze occurred is now gutted.
The Defence Forces have provided helicopter assistance to fire services throughout the country as local services fight to control wildfires in remote regions.
Over the past fortnight, the Air Corps has responded to requests in Cork, Limerick, Offaly, Wicklow, Dublin and Armagh and has dropped more than 620,000 litres, making approximately 500 individual water drops.
Augusta Westland AW139 helicopters, equipped with a ‘Bambi’ bucket aerial capable of dropping 1200 litres of water per pass, are being used to fight blazes.
This amount of water, concentrated in a small areas, makes an immediate impact on wildfires.
‘It’s escalating to a monster of a fire’
Bray Head ablaze: Rescue services spray water at the fire but flames burn close to house, inset