It is illegal to burn growing vegetation between March 1st and August 31st – a period that happens to coincide with the most suitable conditions for setting fire to things. In Connemara every spring, large plumes of smoke regularly appear on the horizon as bogland is set ablaze. The purpose of doing so is to burn off the gorse (or furze) bushes, which themselves spread like..er.. wildfire. The problem is what else gets burned. Connemara, like other parts of the country where the land is too poor for tillage [i.e. bogs], has many forestry plantations, and those forests get incinerated, along with any nesting birds, parked vehicles, households and anything else in the path of an uncontrolled fire.
I drove past the cottage above (on the road out to Rossaveal) a couple of weeks ago. Three fire tenders and crews were in the process of trying to control a roof fire in a thatched cottage. However, the brown smoke in the upper right hand corner of the photo is not from the house fire. It is from a huge bog fire burning out near Carraroe, further west. And therein lies the real problem with gorse fires – it has the potential to tie up valuable resources from doing more serious work – like saving a house. I don’t know how many fire tenders are available in the whole of Galway city and county but I suspect that it is not many. And I’d like to think that if I called the fire brigade, they’d be able to speed directly to my aid imediately rather than have to drive for an hour or so back from a bog fire.