Dramatic new photographs reveal the challenging conditions faced by firefighters who tackled the “monster of a fire” which raged at the R&H Hall storage facility in Cork Harbour for days.
The crew at Carrigaline fire station released the images as officers confirmed that firefighting operations at the animal feed storage warehouse in Ringaskiddy were finally stood down on Tuesday night, and responsibility for the site was handed back to R&H Hall, more than 80 hours after the alarm was first raised.
R&H Hall said the site reopened on Wednesday at reduced capacity while an assessment of the damage continues.
"We have four other sites across Ireland – at Dublin, Foynes, Lisahally, and Belfast that remain operational and we are in the process of acquiring additional storage space in the Cork region to bolster storage capacity in light of this incident," a spokesman said.
"The affected unit was not at full capacity when the incident took place and we believe that up to 30,000 tonnes of animal feed is likely to be lost, but we are securing replacement product to ensure continuity of supply for our customers. There are other storage areas at the site that were unaffected."
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation but it is thought to have started accidentally.
The alarm was raised just before 9am on Saturday when a massive plume of smoke was seen rising from the complex. It could be seen from 20km away.
It triggered a vast emergency response from the Cork County Fire Service, with fire crews from Carrigaline and Crosshaven first on the scene.
They were supported over the coming hours and days by crews from Kinsale, Cobh, Midleton and Bandon fire brigades in the massive firefighting operation.
While they had the fire under control by lunchtime on Saturday, the fire continued to burn.
Firefighters have remained on-site around the clock since, monitoring hotspots and dampening down several areas inside the massive grain storage building.
Machinery was brought in to remove building panels and roofing to provide better access for fire fighting operations.
Chris Gledhill, the station officer at Carrigaline fire station and the on-scene commander at the height of the fire on Saturday, praised all those involved in dealing with the “beast” of a fire.
He said everyone involved had put in "serious hours, intense work and a massive 110% effort”, but he singled out his own crew for special mention.
He also thanked several local businesses that delivered food and supplies to the firefighting crews in recent days.
Cork County Council has announced that a post-incident review will be undertaken involving the local authority, the Port of Cork and R&H Hall.
It follows criticism from residents in the Ringaskiddy area about the lack of early communication from the authorities about the nature and extent of the emergency on Saturday, and about whether or not an evacuation of the area was being considered.