Air Corps helicopter called in to assist with Killarney fire
Appeals to farmers to stop burning gorse go unheeded as public walkway closed
Army pilots prepare to drop lake water on a mountain fire in Killarney National Park in an attempt to prevent it spreading to other areas. Photograph: Don MacMonagle
The Air Corps is assisting with efforts to minimise damage to Killarney National from what has been described as one of the worst ever blazes to break out in the confines of the 26,000 hectare Unesco biosphere reserve.
The old road between Kenmare and Killarney – a popular tourist walkway – has been closed to the public and fire-fighters who have had the busiest 36 hours in decades are battling the blaze which is threatening the oak woods of Derrycunnihy.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service has asked the public to avoid this entire part of the Kerry Way.
Appeals to hill farmers and others to stop burning after the eastern edge of the park was barely salvaged fell on deaf ears and overnight the dozens of gorse and so called commonage fires were again lit all along south and west Kerry.
It is suspected most of them were started deliberately in a mistaken belief that grazing is improved by the practice.
It is illegal to burn between March 1st and August 31st.
Minister for Heritage Heather Humphreys, who has praised the Kerry fire fighters for saving the park, said she is being kept informed of the situation.
The army fire fighters are using the 1,000 litre “Bambi-bucket” to tackle the blaze.
The helicopter will re-fill from the lakes of Killarney.
Not since 1984 has a blaze of its severity been seen in Killarney. That too broke out in a dry April, burned for months and was believed to have been started deliberately. Parts of the park have never recovered from the blaze.