Firefighters battle blaze in Killarney National Park for a third night

Thousands of acres of rare habitat and a number of ancient trees damaged or destroyed

Thousands of acres of Killarney National Park were ablaze on Saturday evening as fire crews, park personnel and an army helicopter tried to contain flames on the southern and western edges. Video: Department of Housing

 

The fire service is continuing to battle a major mountain blaze in Killarney National Park for the third night.

An Air Corps helicopter is scheduled to return on Monday to assist with the battle on the higher ground. Meanwhile there have been calls for a system of fire breaks to be put in around public and private property.

This weekend’s fire in Killarney has spread over thousands of acre of bog and mountain from the southern side of the 25,000 hecatre park northwards over Purple Mountain. The priority now is to save the oldest oak woods in Ireland at Tomies on the shores of Lough Leane.Thousands of acres of rare marsh and bog home to nesting birds and mammals have been charred.

Kerry County Councillor Michael Cahill said the fire was having a devastating on habitats and the psyche of locals.

“I have called for Firebreaks to be provided around Public and Private Forests and residential areas on a number of occasions over the years,” he said

“Year after year, the lives of Fire Service Personnel are put at risk protecting our homes from these fires and our wildlife is being decimated. Everybody involved needs to come to the table, before lives are lost” stated Councillor Cahill.

“And not alone are lives and property at risk, but now the whole of Killarney National Park could be destroyed. The devastating affect that the loss of this national treasure could have on our psyche, not to mind our Tourism Industry is inestimable” stated Mr Cahill.

Meanwhile, despite speculation among some locals that the fires were caused deliberately, the authorities are keeping an open mind on the cause of the fire - and have not yet established what caused it. Extremely dry ground and very high temperatures as well as dried out timber were factors in the spread.

A strong breeze continued on Sunday morning helping to spread the blaze and hamper efforts to contain it.

The blaze is believed to have started at the southern end of the park, near the Long Range River off the N71 Ring of Kerry. Dramatic scenes appeared on social media of flames dancing into the night sky.

Locals along the Fossa shore of Lough Leane reported how they could smell the smoke from the burning mountains.

A fire in 1984, which devastated miles of parkland and burned for weeks also in the southern end of the park, was suspected to have been caused by arson.