Update 9.46pm: Galway city is covered in smoke tonight after a sudden change in wind direction in the city, due to the fire at fire Cloosh Valley.
Authorities say that conditions escalated this afternoon and the blaze has spread outside of Coillte owned land.
The gorse fire Cloosh Valley, Co Galway, escalated this afternoon as high winds and warm temperatures combined to spread the fire outside of Coillte-owned land, the semi-State forestry company said today.
A regional emergency response operation is in now in place as Coillte staff, along with the fire service, army and air-corps, battle to bring the fire under control.
It is hoped there will be some respite to the situation later this evening as temperatures are expected to drop.
At the 169MW Galway Wind Park, Ireland’s largest wind farm currently under construction within the valley, three units of Galway Fire Service are on site to tackle fires in close proximity to wind farm infrastructure.
The forest fire at Cloosh is also threatening many homes and local communities, as well as causing devastation to vast areas of wildlife habitat.
Dramatic scenes in the Cloosh Valley in Galway - fire crews battle blaze. Pic by Mel Mullarkey pic.twitter.com/f65JK8qJ0s— Declan Varley (@declanvarley) May 9, 2017
The fire at Cloosh currently comprises three separate fronts, the longest of which stretches across an 8km long area.
In total, approximately 1,500 hectares of forestry and 2,000 of bog land has been destroyed.
Coillte greatly appreciates the tremendous assistance it continues to receive from the defence forces and emergency services, whose lives are put at significant risk in combating these forest fires.
A Coillte-deployed helicopter was joined this afternoon by a helicopter from the Air Corps, which is on-site to support these efforts.
While the cause of the fire at Cloosh Valley has yet to be definitively established, it is believed that the fire originated from deliberately set gorse fires, which subsequently spread into Coillte owned forestry.
Overall, it is estimated that 20 - 30 fires are ongoing across the country - however, Cloosh Valley is by far the most serious.
Coillte are urging the public stay away from any areas affected by these fires and to immediately report any uncontrolled or unattended fires to the Fire and Emergency Services.
Under the Wildlife Act, it is illegal to set fires to growing vegetation from March 1 to August 31 and those found responsible for deliberately starting fires can be prosecuted.
Recent dry and windy weather has greatly increased the risk of gorse and forest fire, but deliberate fire setting has also been a significant factor in the cause of many of the fires on Coillte property around the country.