By Rose Barrett
Gorse fires raged again last Tuesday on Howth Head, just a week after Dublin Fire Brigade battled through the night to contain fires at the iconic landmark.
This week golfers on the 16th tee at Howth Golf Club were stunned when they saw thick smoke and flames rising above the slope behind, rich in gorse and dry vegetation.
While Dublin Fire Brigade worked through the night last week to quench the gorse fires, last Tuesday’s fire proved more problematic and merited Irish Air Corps helicopters from Baldonnell dropping huge volumes of water.
Dublin Gazette photographer Alison O’Hanlon was onsite and stated the combined work of air and ground emergency services was impressive to watch.
“There were two fire trucks at Howth Golf Club and another two on the main Thormanby Road. Between the air and ground firefighters, they had the flames under control pretty quickly.
“It was spectacular to watch – the helicopter dropped down and scooped up sea water and dropped it over the robust flames. But it was also scary how quickly the fire flared up and spread.”
It is understood the fire broke out early on Tuesday afternoon and was witnessed by parents collecting school children from local schools.
“Dublin Fire Brigade (DBF) managed the gorse fire on Shielmartin that started on Tuesday 22,” said Fingal County Council Press Office. “But it flared up a number times as a result of smouldering organic matter on the ground.” Members of DBF worked through the night to quench the gorse vegetation which kept re-igniting owing to the dry weather conditions.
Initially, the wildfire was contained by the wildfire breaks installed by Fingal County Council and the efforts of Dublin Fire Brigade. Together, they ensured the wildfire didn’t spread beyond the breaks at Shielmartin.
Fingal County Council has been working in collaboration with Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) and the Howth Special Area Amenity Order (SAAO) committee over the last two years to develop a pro-active approach to fighting wildfires on Howth.
“It is unlikely that wildfire can be eradicated completely, so the focus has been in developing a strategy to reduce the size of future wildfire incidents and improve the capability of the DFB to deal with fires,” said Fingal County Council.
Goat Grazing Scheme
Happily, the wildfires won’t impact on the re-introduction of Irish goats to Howth Head. The goats will even help with curtailing the gorse.
“The Council aims to target the goat grazing at the regrowth on the burned stumps and any new gorse seedlings in this area to prevent large stands of flammable gorse developing again on Shielmartin.”
DBF noted the fires at Howth Head are challenging to extinguish as they are in difficult to reach locations and on uneven terrain. DBF prioritise the extinguishing of fires close to property and infrastructure such as electricity and telephone poles.
Don’t light fires or BBQs in public spaces
“We are appealing to people visiting Howth, and other natural amenities, to be fire aware.
“The increase of human activity in these areas bring with it a higher incidence of fire. You should not light any camp fires or barbecues, take care when disposing of smoking materials and report anti-social or suspicious behaviour to An Garda Siochana,” said spokesperson for Dublin Fire Brigade.
“Should you come across a wildfire, retreat to a safe position and alert us on 112 or 999. Don’t assume someone else has rang. The earlier we know about the fire, the quicker we can extinguish it!”
See DBF’s Community Fire Safety at www.dublinfirebrigade.ie or follow their Twitter feed.
Full account and more photos and video – See www.dublingazette.com
PHOTOS – Alison O’Hanlon