Firefighters battle widespread gorse fires in Cork, Kerry

Fine weather believed to have encouraged burning of upland gorse in southwest

A view of the fire from Dromquinna, Co Kerry. Photograph: Norita Kelly

A view of the fire from Dromquinna, Co Kerry. Photograph: Norita Kelly

 

Dozens of firefighters battled illegal gorse fires across the southwest this weekend, from north Kerry to west Cork, where forestry as well as upland nesting areas were destroyed.

Dramatic pictures surfaced on social media on Saturday of a fire along Kenmare Bay which had burned for 24 hours.

Co Kerry’s assistant chief fire officer John Hegarty, who was on duty trying to co-ordinate resources, said at least fifty personnel, most of the part-time people on call, were involved in fighting fires from Knocknagoshel in the very north of the county to Tuosist in the southernmost Beara peninsula on Friday night and Saturday.

Fires burned on both sides of Kenmare Bay and between 10-15 acres of forestry were destroyed. At one point a number of houses were threatened but not damaged.

Fire crews and tenders from Listowel, Castleisland, Sneem, Kenmare, Killarney and Tralee attended. The fires were located around the southern peninsulas.

There was close liaison between crews in Kerry and west Cork, where fire fighters from Bantry attended a number of areas in the Shehy mountain area, Mr Hegarty said.

Crews were also called to the Beaufort areas of mid Co Kerry and at Shrone Rathmore in east Co Kerry.

Mr Hegarty said a liaison committee in Kerry made up of hill farmers, gardaí, the fire service and wildlife personnel had seen some success in encouraging controlled burning in February when it was legal to burn.

It was set up after serious threats to the Killarney National Park, the safety of which was of great concern to the fire service.

Mr Hegarty said the challenge for the fire service when stretched - as it was while containing fires in the countryside - was to have protection for urban areas at the same time, and to have units available to attend road traffic accidents.

“We want the brigades back in the major towns,” he said.

It is not known what caused so many fires, but fine weather is believed to have encouraged the burning of the upland gorse, locals say.

Although farmers and other groups want the burning season extended, it is illegal to burn after March 1st, while the nesting season is under way.

The Irish Wildlfire Trust wants an end to upland burning saying the destruction to wildlife including rare birds and vegetation is devastating on uplands which are already depleted.