Dozens of firemen battled to fight illegal wildfires across the south west this weekend, from north Kerry to west Cork, where forestry as well as upland nesting areas were destroyed, writes Anne Lucey.
Dramatic pictures were tweeted of a fire along Kenmare Bay which burned for 24 hours on Friday and Saturday.
Kerry’s assistant chief fire officer John Hegarty, who was on duty trying to co-ordinate resources to fight the rural fires, 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 ten and fifteen acres of forestry were destroyed; at one point a number of houses were threatened but the threat was contained.
Fire crews and tenders from Listowel, Castlieland, Sneem, Kenmare, Killarney and Tralee were out The fires were all around the southern peninsulas and a there was close liaison with west Cork where crews from Bantry attended a number of fires in the Shehy mountain border area with Kerry, Mr Hegarty said.
Crews were also called to the Beaufort areas of mid Kerry and at Shrone Rathmore in east Kerry units fought gorsefires .
Mr Hegarty said a liaison committee in Kerry made up of hill farmers gardai 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 whose protection was which was of great concern to the fire service.
Dramatic pictures from Kenmare By emerged on social media of the upland commonage fire burning between kenmare and Tuosist and towards the Gleninchaquinn area which burned for 24 hours.
Mr Hegarty said the challenge for the fire service when it was stretched as on this weekend trying to contain fires over vast areas of 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, under the Wildlife it is still illegal to burn after March 1st. when the nesting season is underway.
The Irish Wildlfire Trust wasn’t an end to upland burning saying the destruction to wildlife including rare birds and vegetation is devastating on uplands which are already depleted.