FIRE brigades from Schull, Skibbereen, Bantry and Dunmanway were called to fight a fire that raged above the hills of Ballydehob last Thursday.
Within hours of the lifting of a ban on the burning of vegetation between March 1st and August 31st four crews from four parts of West Cork were pressed into action on September 1st.
At times the flames were 30ft in the air and it took time for the 30 fire fighters, working as a team, to get it under control.
‘We, Schull, were the first station on the scene,’ said a spokesperson. ‘We weren’t there very long when we realised we needed more help.
‘A second brigade, Skibbereen, was called in to help us tackle the western side of the fire, near a forestry, that covered a number of acres,’ he said.
‘We were called at 3.50pm and Skibbereen arrived at 4.20pm, but a short time later the conditions changed when the wind picked up.
‘Given that the ground cover was waist high in places and bone dry, due to the drought conditions,’ the spokesperson said, ‘we knew we needed even more help and a third crew, Bantry, was called.’
They were on scene at 5.20pm and tackled the fire at the north easterly side. But that wasn’t the end of it. Reports came in that the gorse fire was approaching residential properties on the eastern side and the crews knew that a fourth brigade was necessary and Dunmanway was called.
‘The fire covered a big track of hill and from the village it must have looked frightening, especially at night time,’ said the spokesperson.
‘The main risk was that it would spread to houses but that, thankfully, was avoided,’ said the spokesperson. ‘Another problem was that the fire kept relighting.
‘All we could use was beaters and shovels because there was no water access on the hill, but by 1.30am the fire had been extinguished.’
Terry Crofton, a resident of Oughtohig, said the fire on the hill of Knockaphukeen was frightening because he saw the flames 30ft in the air. He said they seemed to be ‘leaping on the wind.
‘I was aware of the fire at 4.30pm,’ he told The Southern Star, ‘but by 7pm it seemed as if it was quickly making its way up the hill, and creeping its way towards our boundary.
‘At one stage,’ he said, ‘we had 16 firefighters and four appliances on our property.
‘We have,’ he added, ‘nothing but praise for these firefighters who could only use fire beaters because all of the ponds in our area had dried up in the recent dry spell.
‘People start these fires,’ he said, ‘to clear their land but they don’t seem to be aware of the dangers – not just to property but to peoples’ lives too.’