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Historic Glenshane Pass Three Day Gorse Fire - June 2018 - Page 2

Sun close to setting, fire raging, smoke filling the W skyline, warm and dead calm, not a breath of wind, the midgets were eating us alive, we kept shooting and filming, I switched over to the 100-400mm lens and began recording video once more as we downed a two litre bottle of water each.

Disk setting behind a crimson sky, smoke rising above the trees, this was a stunning sight to end a very dramatic day. It was clear this fire wasn't going to stop anytime soon, fire crews would continue to battle and monitor the fire over night and the chances were high it could still be burning the next day.

A hot Summer's night between 22.30 and 23.00 BST, we climbed the peat hill again and set up the cameras at dusk, short exposure of the fire burning against the sunset afterglow. The chopper kept dropping men off on the hill, this was now a night operation, I shot a short video clip for the memory and managed to capture the dark form of the chopper flying out to the fire against that sunset sky, it looked apocalyptic. We called it a night, back home to off load the images and video, re-charge the DSLR and drone batteries, and get ready for the next day, we had a feeling this event was far from over.

I woke up on June 28th exhausted but still buzzing with adrenaline after the previous morning to night shoot, I had hardly slept from the heat and it wasn't long before the bright morning sun was burning through my window and the foot steps of crows on the roof woke me. I checked online, I had a pm from Conor, there was an update on the fire, it was still going strong and had now descended back down the mountain once more and fighter fighters were still on the scene. I quickly washed and got breakfast and prepped the gear, Conor got in contact 30 minutes later to say that the actual forest itself was on fire, he was getting out of work by early afternoon and we had agreed to meet, in the meantime my Dad rang, I filled him in with the news, he too was finishing up with work so it looked like another shoot was on the cards.

I met Dad then we drove back up Glenshane Pass, the fire instantly got our attention, there where two areas burning, one on the other side of the mountain much further away and the other rite inside the forest itself at close range to us, we targeted the forest fire, drove along the forest trail and parked at a safe location. We were just at the edge of the forest, above us smoke lifted skyward, a breeze was up, estimated 10mph Nly which was fanning the flames and spreading the fire. I have been living here all my life and never before had I seen a major fire inside this forest, this was an historic event, and I was going to document it. Once again it was a roasting afternoon, intense sunshine, blue skies, and temps between 29C and 30C. We got the drone in the air and climbed above the tree tops, the fire itself was only 222m from take off point.

I began recording video and aerial stills, the view from the drone was amazing, the trees seemed to be engulfed by a sea of smoke, the smoke was blowing rapidly and waxing and waning in shape and density at an alarming rate. Arcs of fire could be seen burning on the forest floor.

This is a crop from another 12mp still, at periodic intervals we would hearing a sudden wooooshing sound like air being released, then suddenly fire would crackle and new plumes of orange smoke would blow upwards as new trees ignited.

We walked around to the edge of the forest which offered even better line of sight, changed batteries and began a second flight with the drone. Dad was acting as spotter, observing the drone's position with the naked eye and through binoculars. Suddenly another drone appeared in the air above my Phantom, it was hovering over the fire getting imagery just as I was, it was a DJI Inspire 2, I decided to stay low that way I would never encroach inside the Inspire's air space. The Phantom slowly moved only 2m from the tops of pine trees and thanks to Dad's spotter assistance I was able to get the Phantom into a good position. A few minutes later the Inspire took off out of sight so I climbed in altitude for a better view.

I have since got an email from the land owner who has land adjacent to the forest here which didn't burn, he very kindly explained why this was so and is worth reading because of the environmental implications - ''Great pictures, perhaps you could elaborate on your broadcast why my land did not burn on the right hand side going up. I practice a rotational burn on the mountain and this checks the fire as the heather is not as thick and green grass inhibits the fire. This policy is discouraged by NIEA much to the detriment of the environment when a large fire breaks out . They also limit stock on the mountain in environmental schemes!''

Our attention then turned to the other fire over the mountain, Conor had arrived on the scene then the three of us drove over another dodgy mountain road, filled with large craters and rocks, the suspension got some work out and so did the tires, we found an elevated position on a back trail and got out for a look. Using binoculars we could confirm persons at the scene on the mountain, they were not fire service personnel but locals or farmers. Dad was recording video, Conor began shooting DSLR stills and I prepped the drone once more for another flight.

Conor captured this great memory shot of my Dad and I with the Phantom in the air and gorse fire, all in the one frame, Dad was doing spotter once again, checking the area visually, and using the binos for a closer look, the airspace was friendly and open, all was good, time to see what this fire looked like from the drone's point of view.

Hovering over the location, massive area of fire with smoke blowing down range in the prevailing wind, we could see movement below and some sort of metallic structure, but what was it?

Deep crop, what is that structure, perhaps some kind of utility shed, storage station, or even an ATV, we couldn't be sure through the binos however we could see a lot of smoke blowing over and around it.

Panning the camera up to take in the entire view, UAV altitude 120m, I counted nine different fires, approx half a km away we spotted fire crews and trucks on location so it looked like another busy evening and night to come. Once I had sufficient aerial imagery and footage I brought the drone back to it's home position.

Conor yet again captured this great memory shot of my Phantom hovering over the smoke, the three of us had done a great job documenting the scene with three different recording devices. The sun was ferocious hot on this exposed mountain, our skin felt like it was cooking, however by 17.00 we decided to call it a day. The fire would continue into a second night with talk that it could still be burning for a third day.

June 29th, day three, reports on social media indicated the fire was indeed still active for a third day in a row however the ignition sources where now on the far side of the mountain. Conor rang, would I be game for examining the aftermath of the fire on Glenshane forest?, I was more than game, it sounded like a great idea, we wanted to get up close and personal to the trees and scorched ground to see what it was like, I also wanted to obtain drone imagery for the record. We drove back down the forest trail, prepped our gear, took water, and began the hike up the side of the mountain, it was tough going, a very steep climb in hot sunshine, temps were once again in the 29-30C range, the heat was relenting. We reached the top and took in the view, it was quite shocking to say the least, we could still see smoke rising from the forest and from the marsh land, smoke vented here and there, and the occasional flame, however it was the look of the mountain itself which blew us away, we were surrounded by a desolate world of black and grey. I got the drone up for two flights, 120m high, camera panned down, this was just one area of damage.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing, it didn't seem that long ago when I was getting drone footage of this area covered in snow, the contrast between then and now was utterly shocking.

Between drone flights I was recording a vlog and taking snaps with my phone, you really had to be here to experience this in the flesh, it was like walking beside a ghost forest, with each foot step puffs of grey smoke would rise into the air, it was ash, the remnants of trees and bushes and perhaps wildlife which had stirred here only 24 hours earlier, now all wiped out.

Conor taking in the view, it actually felt like we had walked onto ground zero where an atomic bomb went off, just surreal, black, grey, ashes, dust, charred trees and blackened bark. We took it all in and absorbed the memory, it had been three days of madness, without question an historic moment on Glenshane Pass. Make sure to check out my last video where you can view the aerial desolation in detail, at least we had documented all three days from the ground and air, with luck the land will regenerate again soon and nature will flourish once again.

Final image of the day taken by Conor, a memory shot, despite the devastation we felt proud to have been here throughout the event, this area is close to our hearts and it felt only rite to document everything on camera for the record. In a year's time all evidence of this event will have vanished from the hills, the cycle of life will continue and the snow will be back, Glenshane Pass will continue to impress.

June 27th 2018, hottest weather in years, this day reached 30.8C making it a new June record. A huge gorse fire ignited on the mountains near Glenshane Pass on June 27th, first reports came in at 05.00, by 08.30 I get a call from my mate Conor McDonald who tipped me off and I was out on the road from 08.30 and ended up staying out the entire day to 22.30 documenting the event. This is a combination of DSLR video and three drone flights, accompanied by another drone pilot, this turned into quite the adventure with very dramatic scenes over the mountains here. Fire fighters were being lifted by a coast guard helicopter and dropped at the scene where they worked through the evening and night into the following day. The sun setting behind the billowing smoke was a spectacular sight, this edit and vlog documents the day. I have another drone video on the way filming this fire for the second day in a row so stay tuned for that.

June 27th 2018, hottest day on record here in N. Ireland, 30.8 C temps and biggest gorse fire in years. This is a time lapse of the sun setting through the smoke using my DSLR, video recorded and speed increased by 16x, a very dramatic end to a very dramatic day.

June 28th 2018, second day in a row of the major gorse fire event on Glenshane Pass, now an historic fire here, this time the fire had spread down the mountain over night and was in full force in two areas, this is Glenshane forest itself on fire, we walked to a location close to the action, yet safe, and launched the phantom, once above the tree tops the drone provided us with a spectacular view, it was unreal, flames roaring and smoke billowing rapidly engulfing the forest, we could hear loud whooshing sounds like a sudden rush of air just as more trees ignited. My Dad was doing spotter for me, this is an edit from two flights, at the start another drone was over the fire much further above my phantom, it was an inspire, so I made sure to stay low over the trees, once it vanished I was able to climb higher. The fire was on the other side of the mountain features near the end of the footage, it was quite an event ongoing for two days and nights. Drone within vlos, spotter used, max range 222m, max height 120m, slight 10mph Nly breeze.

June 29th 2018, third day in a row of the historic Glenshane forest gorse fire event, the fire was mostly out by this stage, however there was still smoke coming from the forest in places and a few flames. Conor McDonald and I decided to check it out up close and personal, we hiked up a steep trail in near 30C temps and got to the area where I had filmed the forest burning the previous day, the place was eerie, everything black and grey, walking produced a cloud of ash to lift into the air, with each footstep, I got the drone up for aerial footage, the extent of the burnt mountain was astonishing, and this was only part of the event, there was more damage on the other side, quite a surreal day here walking through the ghost of a forest in this stifling heat, hope you enjoy the video.


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