Delay in fighting Donegal gorse fire due to crews coming from 'all over the country' - Air Corps

Picture: Micheal Mac Giolla Easbuig

The delay in the involvement of the air corps in fighting the gorse fire in Donegal was because crews had to be assembled “from the four corners of the country” according to the Press Officer with the Irish Air Corps.

Captain Kevin Fitzgerald explained that the air corps is not the primary fire fighting service.

When we got the task we had to mobilise a crew. We don’t have the resources for fire fighting.

"Crews had to come from all over the country,” he told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland.

Although the call for air support was made on Monday morning, it was 1pm before the task was approved by the Department of Defence following assessment.

Captain Fitzgerald added that fire fighting from the air is a very specialised task and is “relatively high risk”.

He pointed out that because the air corps is not a dedicated fire service it takes time to respond, while it can respond to medical emergencies within ten minutes.

The Director of Emergency Services at Donegal County Council, Gary Martin told Morning Ireland that the gorse fire in Donegal is under control for now.

However, he said caution is being applied given the nature of wind conditions. He appealed to the public not to do anything to cause fires to ignite.

Mr Martin said that while there had been no loss of life and the loss of property was minimal, the loss to animals, flora and fauna was incalculable.

He thanked the community for their support in battling the fire.

At one stage on Monday there were 100 community volunteers assisting 100 fire crew in Gweedore along with civil defence, the coast guard, air corps and the defence forces along with a private sector helicopter.

Earlier on Newstalk Breakfast Captain Fitzgerald dismissed criticism that fire fighting from the air is more for image than impact.

He explained “it is not about the amount of water.

Dropping 1200 litres of water on a targeted area on an exact spot can saturate the vegetation ahead of the fire and stop it from going further.

We’re not a primary fire fighting agency, we got to Donegal as soon as we could.

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