Londonderry, Northern Ireland — Exhausted firefighters were today still battling to quench a fierce forest fire which raged over 40 acres of remote countryside in Co Londonderry.
The major blaze stretched for one kilometre at its widest point and covered an area the size of 60 football pitches.
At its height, strong winds fanned the intense flames causing the fire to sweep rapidly over the area.
Last night crews had to pull out because of the danger, but the fight got under way again from 5am this morning.
Up to 90 firemen struggled with the blaze at Broughderg forest, close to Six Towns near Draperstown, which was reported at around 3pm yesterday.
Fire chiefs said that the fire was this morning being brought under control.
No-one has been injured, but investigators have been unable to find out what started two fire fronts which then multiplied to five locations.
Changing wind directions and difficulties in pumping water to such an isolated location made the task even more difficult for firefighters who have also had to contend with sweltering weather.
Speaking this morning, group commander Billy Orr paid tribute to the hard work and professionalism of the crews who attended from across Northern Ireland.
“This was a significant fire to deal with in extremely difficult conditions until nightfall.
“We then had no choice but to remove all personnel for safety as the fire was on three fronts.
“At 5am we took action to try to make a concerted effort on the fire in fairly punishing conditions. We reduced these to minor isolated pockets of fire which we dealt with systematically.”
He added: “The good spell of weather that we have had was a major factor.”
Area commander Eoin Doyle said firefighters has been confronted by thick vegetation up to five metres high and reported that it was a complex incident to deal with.
“It is a very difficult fire to fight because of its location and because you are not able to drive fire engines there. So the crew are facing a punishing three-quarters of a mile hike to get to the fire with all their protective clothing on,” he said.
“There is no doubt that this is causing a lot of damage with the wildlife suffering and lots of trees being burned, but I take some pleasure in the fact that nobody has been injured.
A police helicopter has also been involved in the operation, helping commanders with an aerial view of the field.