Killarney National Park fire started deliberately, officials say

Area has been subjected to regular and deliberate burning over the past decade

 The area where the wildfire broke out alongside Killarney National Park is home to nesting birds, deer and other wildlife. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien /The Irish Times

The area where the wildfire broke out alongside Killarney National Park is home to nesting birds, deer and other wildlife. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien /The Irish Times

 

A fire which threatened forests in the Killarney National Park overnight was deliberately started, fire officials have said.

Gardaí are investigating the blaze, which threatened dozens of houses at the foothills of the Mangerton Mountain.

Fire units from throughout Kerry fought the fire over a 12 hour period until it was finally brought under control at about 6am on Thursday.

Walkers had to be escorted to safety and the fire was barely contained from houses and sheds, coming up to boundary fences, Kerry assistant chief fire officer Mike Flynn said.

A number and other fires were set in the Muckross area in what were strong windy conditions even while the fire service was trying to bring the major fire at Mangerton under control.

Mr Flynn has appealed to farmers and others not to set wildfires in the current weather.

Apart from being illegal under the Wildlife Acts, the current dry spell is extremely dangerous. “It is the worst time to burn,” Mr Flynn said.

The Mangerton area is visited by hundreds of walkers each week and a number of walkers were almost trapped by the fire on Wednesday. Sightseers also had to be escorted to safety.

The woodlands of the Killarney National Park were within metres of the blaze and Mr Flynn said it was miraculous that lives and property were not lost in the extremely windy conditions on Mangerton.

Some of the gorse which was set alight was up to 8ft high and very difficult to extinguish.

Some 35 fire-fighters attended the scene to contain the illegal blaze which was fanned by easterly winds at the foot of Mangerton Mountain. However while the fire service attended that scene an area just west of it was set alight and threatened Loughquittane national school.

Mr Flynn said the biggest challenge facing the fire fighters was trying to divert the fire past people’s houses.

The Mangerton foothills are within yards of the start of the Scots Pine forests on the eastern edge of the park and have been subjected to regular and deliberate burning over the past decade despite the fact it is not an area that is grazed by sheep or other domestic animals.