“There’s a saying: ‘Things spread like wildfire’,” said Donegal Deputy Mayor, Sinn Féin Cllr. Marie-Therese Gallagher. “Everyone in Dungloe knows what that means now.”
“It’s just been a horrific and very frightening weekend, and it’s still not over,” Cllr. Gallagher said.
Cllr. Gallagher and Dinny McGinley, Fine Gael TD, spoke of the hundreds of people who were out over the weekend helping fire services, defence forces and emergency services battle the fires that blazed across the Rosses.
Deputy McGinley yesterday visited affected areas from Tully to Gweebarra and up to Tor, outside of Crolly.
“I can only say to see it in the cold daylight it is absolutely devastating, the damage that has been caused,” he said. “There were no borders. The fire was able to jump over rivers, to jump over roads.”
The deputy said he has been in contact with the government and will today describe the situation to the ministers of defence, agriculture and environment. He said there needs to be an assessment of damage done to farms in the area and property loss.
“The whole countryside is burned to a cinder,” Deputy McGinley said.
He paid tribute to the emergency services that responded to the fire, from the gardaí and fire services, to the armed forces and Civil Defence. He also credited local people and efforts, noting that Sharkey’s waste recovery in Annagry delivered water in a tanker to an embattled area.
“The community in general responded heroically to the crisis,” Deputy McGinley said.
Cllr. Gallagher said the changing directions of the winds over the weekend meant that a fire could be put out in one place only to return. She said fires at the top of the town by the chapel road had been extinguished on Sunday evening, but in the same area, as Sunday night turned into Monday morning, “there were 50-foot flames by people’s houses at about 12.30 or 1 o’clock.”
The fires had come worryingly close to Dungloe, “but the fire brigades and helicopters were excellent,” Cllr. Gallagher said.
People looked out for neighbours and others. The councillor received a call from a home help aid who was concerned about client of hers, an older man. He lives on one of the hills outside of the town, on a boreen miles from anyone else. A vehicle was stuck at the end of the boreen, blocking the way.
But Cllr. Gallagher said they were able to organise an army ambulance to get to the man’s house and bring him to the community hospital in Dungloe.
As fires neared Dungloe, the main concern was the houses and lives in the town. Yesterday afternoon, when the fire seemed to be backing into the hills, there were other concerns.
“For people in the hills, their whole life depends on the land and it is terribly frightening for them,” Cllr. Gallagher said. Fencing was gone from many properties and grazing lands badly damaged.
“Out in the hills, that’s their livelihood,” she said.