Met Éireann has warned of worsening drought conditions as firefighters battle a major gorse fire on the Slieve Bloom Mountains in Laois and Offaly.

The blaze broke out on gorse covered ground on the Offaly side of the mountains yesterday, but has since spread into Laois.

Laois and Offaly firefighters have been battling the blaze with the help of staff from Coillte since yesterday.

The Air Corps has also been deployed to the area.

Around 300,000 litres of water has been dropped on the affected area using AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters equipped with 'Bambi' buckets to scoop water from nearby lakes.

Forestry manager with Coillte, Gerard Murphy, said that already "a couple of hundred hectares of forest had been lost".

He said the fire has been contained but not controlled.

The Mountrath to Kinnitty road is closed and members of the public are being urged to avoid the area.

Coillte has said that it is fighting a number of fires nationwide, and it urged the public to be extra vigilant towards the dangers of wildfires.

In an updated weather warning, Met Éireann said that dry and warm weather is set to continue for the coming week. Temperatures are expected to rise to mid-to-high 20s from Saturday onwards. 

It comes after Irish Water announced a nationwide hosepipe ban will come into effect from 8am tomorrow and will remain in place until midnight on 31 July.

Despite efforts to conserve water during the continuing hot spell, Lidl says that its 7,500 litre swimming pools have sold out due to "unprecedented" demand.

The pools went on sale this morning despite calls for the store to pull the pools from sale to help conserve water during the drought.

The call was made prior to the announcement of the national hosepipe ban.


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