The delay in the involvement of the air corps in fighting the gorse fire in Donegal was because crews had to be assembled “from the four corners of the country” according to the Press Officer with the Irish Air Corps.
Captain Kevin Fitzgerald explained that the air corps is not the primary fire fighting service.
When we got the task we had to mobilise a crew. We don’t have the resources for fire fighting.
"Crews had to come from all over the country,” he told RTE radio’s Morning Ireland.
Although the call for air support was made on Monday morning, it was 1pm before the task was approved by the Department of Defence following assessment.
Captain Fitzgerald added that fire fighting from the air is a very specialised task and is “relatively high risk”.
He pointed out that because the air corps is not a dedicated fire service it takes time to respond, while it can respond to medical emergencies within ten minutes.
The Director of Emergency Services at Donegal County Council, Gary Martin told Morning Ireland that the gorse fire in Donegal is under control for now.
1600hrs AW139 Heli equipped for fire fighting operations deploying to Donegal to assist local authorities with gorse fires. There are also 36 troops ready to deploy from Finner Camp to assist with fire fighting operations on the ground. #ÓglaighnahÉireann #strengthenthenation pic.twitter.com/YFCcdm3dXT— Óglaigh na hÉireann (@defenceforces) April 22, 2019
However, he said caution is being applied given the nature of wind conditions. He appealed to the public not to do anything to cause fires to ignite.
Mr Martin said that while there had been no loss of life and the loss of property was minimal, the loss to animals, flora and fauna was incalculable.
He thanked the community for their support in battling the fire.
At one stage on Monday there were 100 community volunteers assisting 100 fire crew in Gweedore along with civil defence, the coast guard, air corps and the defence forces along with a private sector helicopter.
A massive gorse fire in West Donegal is putting homes under threat. The fire between Loughanure & Annagry started in the early hours of this morning. It comes just days after two homes were destroyed by fires in Annagry #Donegal #GorseFires pic.twitter.com/iyxRWYuk1u— Barry Whyte (@BarryWhyte85) April 22, 2019
Earlier on Newstalk Breakfast Captain Fitzgerald dismissed criticism that fire fighting from the air is more for image than impact.
He explained “it is not about the amount of water.
Dropping 1200 litres of water on a targeted area on an exact spot can saturate the vegetation ahead of the fire and stop it from going further.
We’re not a primary fire fighting agency, we got to Donegal as soon as we could.