Update: Hundreds of acres of heath and forest burned and young wildlife was incinerated after a major fire on Torc Mountain in the heart of the Killarney National Park overnight.
It is not known what caused the fire at this stage. However, wildfires alongside the park, sparked by the annual setting fire of commonage and sheep grazing mountain are now an annual challenge for fire services and for residents alongside the park.
The wildfires, which are believed to be deliberately set, have several times in recent years threatened the whole of the Killarney national park.
Killarney solicitor Pat F O’Connor, a former town councillor, who has been outspoken on the issue, has described what is now an annual occurrence threatening the whole of the national park as “wanton destruction.”
There had not been one single prosecution in the courts in Killarney for the wildfires, he said. However these were criminal acts and every effort must be made by the authorities to find and prosecute whoever is responsible, Mr O’Connor said today.
“Will human life have to be lost or the whole tourist industry destroyed before this is taken seriously?” Mr O’Connor asked.
Fire crews from @countykerry battled with gorse fires in #killarneyNationalPark last night. The fire spread through Torc Mountain and protected areas of the National Park. Torc Mountain is now closed. 😢 @radiokerry @PaschalSheehy pic.twitter.com/YoeddKSOQX— Valerie O'Sullivan (@valphoto) March 30, 2019
Fire crews battled overnight and flames licked the sky as the fire was visible from the town of Killarney and miles around from the mountain.
It was finally brought under control in the early hours and firefighters remain at the scene the is morning.
The public today are being asked to keep away from the southern side of Torc.
However, one of the most visited attractions in the southwest, Torc Waterfall, has opened to the public this morning as has the walkway known as Cardiac Steps.
Local knowledge by firefighters on how to access a remote area at the back of the mountain is being credited with preventing last night’s fire from reaching the main the forests of the National Park.
The fire was reported at 10 pm. Fire crews from Killarney were on the scene quickly, and were joined by crews from Killorglin. Fire crews were still at the scene this morning.
Wildfire burning is a major problem in the vicinity of Killarney National Park and sheep farmers and others are asked not to burn without informing the services. Public meetings have taken place over concern about the threat to forests and to residents.
There have been a number of call-outs to wildfire burning on commonage in the nearby Mangerton Mountain area of the park all this week.
Fire crews have been carrying out controlled burning to prevent fires from commonage reaching the forests.
It is not known what sparked the major fire at Torc Mountain. However it began in a remote area at the back of the mountain, it is believed.
Kerry County said the fire service has advised of a risk of hot spots and re-ignition and is asking for the cooperation of the public in avoiding the southern side of Torc Mountain area until further notice.
The situation is being closely monitored in conjunction with staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
By Anne Lucey & Digital Desk staff
A major fire which engulfed the forested Torc Mountain in Co Kerry overnight is now under control.
The fire started at the back of Torc at around 7pm, or shortly afterwards, firefighters believe. It may have been lit from the Old Kenmare Road area.
Firefighters have been undertaking controlled burning in the nearby Mangerton area, a commonage area alongside the Killarney National Park to prevent forest fires.
There have been several call outs in recent days to the area.
However, the wildfire at Torc began separately and spread quickly.
It took over the mountain and spread towards the N71, threatening the woodlands of the whole of the Killarney National Park.
Fire crews from several divisions attended the scene from 10pm and the fire came under control this morning.
The sky was red and is seen for several miles including from Killarney town.
There are a number of houses in the area. It is not known at this stage if residents were evacuated.
Kerry County Council has advised the public that Torc Mountain is closed until further notice.
Due to a large fire overnight in Killarney National Park, the public are advised that Torc Mountain incl Cardiac Hill Steps is closed until further notice. Fire crews at scene since 10pm and fire now under control @radiokerrynews @KillarneyToday— Kerry County Council (@countykerry) March 30, 2019