Waterford, Ireland — Fire fighters and Coillte workers were continuing a round-the-clock monitor of Ballyscanlan Wood near Tramore on Tuesday in case of a re-eruption of the fire that destroyed more than 35 acres of forestry at the weekend.
The arrival of rainfall yesterday helped to significantly dampen down the embers of the fire that threatened to re-ignite throughout Monday, and is regarded by Coillte as one of the biggest forest fires in the county in years.
Ballyscanlan Wood was a popular amenity walk area for local people and Coillte estimates it will take five to six years to restore the forest. The forestry service has not yet quantified the monetary loss it has suffered because of the fire.
An estimated 60 fire fighters battled throughout Saturday to get the blaze that swept through the woodland of semi-mature Lodge Pole Pine and young Sitka Spruce trees under control.
A separate fire ignited across the road from the first around 3pm on Sunday afternoon and it took until about 11pm that night to get it under control.
The occupants of two nearby houses were evacuated for a period due to fears the fire might spread to their homes but they have now returned.
The exceptionally dry weather conditions contributed significantly to the rapid spread of the fire, and large fire break trenches had to be dug out by heavy plant machinery around the perimeter of the blaze to stop it spreading.
Coillte forestry manager John OHalloran said while the fire was now well contained, the ground was still smouldering yesterday afternoon. He hoped for more rain over the next few days to fully quench the remains of the blaze.
Gardai have been scouring the scene of the blaze over the past few days to establish the cause but their investigations to date have been unable to conclude whether the fire was started maliciously or accidentally.
Tramore Garda Supt. Jerry Lynch said they believe the fire started on the road, known locally as the low road bordering the picnic area near Ballyscanlan Lough.
He has issued an appeal to anyone who may have seen any activity, suspicious or otherwise, in the early hours of Saturday morning to contact Tramore Garda Station.
The emergency services received the alert about the blaze around 1.20am on Saturday. Twelve fire tenders attended the scene from Tramore, Dunmore East, Waterford City, Kilmacthomas, Portlaw, Dungarvan and even Cappoquin. Fire fighters had to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water from the nearby Ballyscanlan Resevoir to battle the blaze.
Noel Burns of Tramore Fire Service who was one of the fire fighters involved in the operation said, There was a large area ablaze when we arrived. With all the vegetation being so dry, the fire went through the forest very quickly. It was extremely difficult to bring it under control. It took a vast amount water to dampen it down. The ground is really peaty and it just soaked up the water and kept smouldering.
Maurice Murphy of Murphy Plant Hire of Islandtarsney, Fenor, who along with his brother Gerard, dug out the fire break trenches to stop the forest fire spreading, said the flames in the second blaze that erupted on Sunday were particular bad.
We had to keep watching ourselves in case the flames came in around you. The firemen were there with their hoses all the time, he said.
Local councillor Lola OSullivan recounted seeing the flames and smoke from the fire from her house at Garrarus about a mile away as the crow flies. She said smoke from the fire spread around a four-mile radius and estimated that every house from Ballyscanlon to Garrarus beach was covered in soot.
The former Mayor of Tramore paid tribute to the bravery and fabulous work of the fire service in battling the fire.