'It feels like the whole of Wicklow is on fire'
Firefighters have been extinguishing blazes to stop gorse fires spreading to homes in Wicklow and Dublin as high temperatures show no sign of abating.
Fire crews in Co Wicklow were busy yesterday fighting a blaze near a school and a housing estate in Kilmacanogue.
There had been a string of fires on the land in recent days, but yesterday was the most serious as temperatures increased across the country to between 26C and 30C.
The alarm was raised shortly after noon, when locals noticed a shrubby area in Rocky Valley Crescent was alight.
Fire crews battled the blaze, with one member saying: "We're working flat out. It feels like the whole of Wicklow is on fire."
The cause of the fire was not yet known, but residents were shocked to see it so close to their homes.
Parents of pupils at a nearby school were notified and children were moved.
Dublin Fire Brigade has also been fighting a series of fires, including one at the Lugg and Slade Valley mountain area.
Fire crews were assisted by the Air Corps, with a helicopter flying over the blaze and dropping 1,000 litres of water on to the flames.
Smaller fires had built in recent days but escalated yesterday as the temperatures continued to rise.
Fire crews were assessing the situation last night to see if a small number of houses needed to be evacuated.
Dublin Fire Brigade (DFB) asked the public not to travel to areas where fires have started. Firefighters tackled another blaze at Tolka Valley in Finglas yesterday after numerous calls from the public.
Dramatic images showed smoke rising from destroyed grassland.
Resident Jacqueline Gallagher took to Facebook to express her concern that the valley was on fire.
"Tolka Valley on fire again," she wrote. "Smoke billowing up to our estate."
Another resident said the fire had been growing for two days before it became more serious.
DFB also posted an image on its official Twitter account of a car that was destroyed in a gorse fire in the Dublin mountains.
"Unfortunately, a car was destroyed in today's gorse fire (Dublin mountains) after a change in wind direction ruined visibility on the road. Smoke from these fires affects your breathing & ability to see, enjoy the sun, be safe," an official wrote on Wednesday.
The Department of Agriculture this week issued a status red warning for forest fires.
It said it was the highest level and was rare in Ireland, and it replaced a status orange warning that had been in effect since last Thursday.
"It may give rise to rapid and unpredictable wildfire development and spread, particularly in dead grasses, and low-moisture shrub fuels like gorse and heather," the department said.
People who own forest lands have been advised to implement fire prevention plans.
Meanwhile, DFB reminded the public to check on elderly relatives and vulnerable family and friends and advised some medications need to be kept at certain temperatures.
With temperatures soaring above 30C, nights will continue to be warm.
While many people find it hard to sleep in the heat, Met Eireann forecaster Joanna Donnelly said that as long as temperatures stay in low to mid-teens, they should be bearable.
"I would have grave concern if the night temperatures went anywhere above 20C because the body needs those cooler temperatures overnight to cool off from the day."