Air Corps helicopters with huge ‘bambi buckets’ of water have been called in to help fight wildfires on the Kildare-Meath border and in Co Clare.

The fire near Enfield, Co Kildare, was close to an explosives factory, while the Clare fire was burning through scrub near Carran in the Burren National Park.

The Air Corps helicopters take 1,200l of water at a time from local lakes to dump precisely in the heart of the fires.

The Department of Agriculture issued a red alert for fire risk prior to the bank holiday weekend.

IFA farm forestry chair Vincent Nally cautioned farmers, some of whom who have already suffered financial losses, to be extra vigilant about the risk of fire.

He warned that after such a prolonged spell of dry weather, a wildfire risk can quickly develop in areas where flammable vegetation such as grasses, gorse, and heather are present.

“Most fires spread from adjoining land into the forest. It’s important that farmers assess the risk to their forest and make sure that their firebreaks are maintained. A firebreak should consist of a 6m-wide fuel-free zone, typically around the boundary of the forest,” he said.

Forest fires have caused significant financial losses for farmers in recent years

He encouraged farmers to review their fire plan for their forest, or to prepare a fire plan, especially if your forest is in a high-risk area.

“Forest fires have caused significant financial losses for farmers in recent years, with years of growth and timber production lost in a single incident. It’s so important that farmers consider the financial consequences of a fire and make sure there they have adequate insurance cover as under the Afforestation Scheme farmers are obligated to replant when a forest is damaged by fire,” Nally added.

He urged anyone who saw a fire not to delay, report it to the fire and emergency services by calling 999 or 112. He stressed that you will not be billed by the Fire Service or local authority for making the call.

Galway fires

Fires have been raging in Co Galway over the weekend, with fire brigades from three counties drafted in to help with a fire close to Gort.

Drones deployed

Meanwhile, drones have been deployed to help fight fires by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Coillte.

This is the second year that the technology is being used to monitor designated hotspots across regions of Dublin, Wicklow and the Slieve Bloom area in the Midlands. The drones have already been in action in the Dublin and Wicklow mountains this month.

Josepha Madigan, the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, thanked the

staff of the NPWS who, as essential workers, had been protecting natural habitats throughout the pandemic response.

The drones are equipped with cameras that peer through smoke, as well as sensors for wind direction and other weather variables that affect how fires spread.

They can capture continuous footage of areas deemed as high risk and spot small fires that otherwise could not have been detected until they had become much larger and harder to contain.

Minister Madigan also encouraged the public to be eyes on the ground.

“Even planned and/or ‘controlled’ burning can get out of hand very quickly so it is critically important that every member of society realises the damage that can be caused to property and, indeed, the health and welfare of family, neighbours and the wider community, and the responding emergency services. I would urge anyone with any information on fires, no matter how trivial it may seem, to pass any information on to the Gardaí or to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department.”