Fire Officer Gerry O'Malley has refused to rule out that forestry was maliciously targeted in some recent forest fires.
In May there have been an estimated 100 gorse and forest fires nationally.Three of these recent wildfires were in various areas of Co. Sligo which destroyed thousands of acres of forestry with the costs estimated in millions of euro.
Two weeks ago Slish Wood became the centre of the biggest forest fire with North West Nature reporting, ''So much devastation. All the nests with chicks, lizards, insects wiped out.''
The gorse conflagration was centred near Killery, Ballintogher, was started by ''negligent idiots'' said Iomhar Daly in an online Tweet.
Later in that week fires in the Geevagh/Ballyfarnon region were fought by firefighters from Ballymote and Boyle who managed to contain the blaze that night.'Suspicions'
Last week the Ox Mountains in Co Sligo were ravaged with fire at Moy Forest between Lough Easkey and Lough Talt, When asked if he believes forestry was maliciously targeted, the Sligo Fire Chief said: "To be honest, I have my suspicions, but you have to take into consideration that we attend when the fire is going - we're not there when it started."
His answer comes as a new claim that ''anti forestry campaigners deliberately started recent wildfires.''
Left: Sligo Fire Chief Gerry O'Malley
The Irish Natura and Hill Farmers Association (INHFA) says "anti- forestry sentiment" is building in some parts of the country. See link below
"Whoever is lighting [wildfires] shouldn't be doing it, but the worry is
that it shows a siege mentality is building against forestry. There is
genuine concern here that when you start to put in trees, you start to
move out people," said a spokesperson for the INHFA.
"The gardaí are suspicious and they are investigating. There were a number of forests burned in the region, some of ours, some of Coillte."He said the situation was "a big wake-up call" for landowners in relation to insuring their properties and protecting their forests.
However John O'Reilly, CEO of the Green Belt forestry company, claims "careless burning of neighbouring vegetation" was the cause of the wildfires at their forests in Roscommon and Wicklow last week.
"It's either burning of heather or burning of gorse to clear vegetation on agricultural land."I don't believe anyone has gone out specifically to target a forest, but the fires did not start in the forest, nor did they start because someone threw away a cigarette," said Mr O'Reilly.
"It's like a criminal footprint - you can track the fire to where it started and where it ended, and you can track the fact it started in neighbouring vegetation," he said.
Garda and Fire Service investigations are continuing.
Link: Sligo Today 16/5/2017