The fire service in Kerry believes “multiple ignitions” possibly lit at around the same time, are responsible for a huge fire that threatened the ancient oak woodlands of Tomies Mountain at the western most edge of the Killarney National Park.
The smoke emanating mainly from the Gap of Dunloe region was visible for miles in daylight yesterday.
Killarney’s National Park is one of the very few places in the country continuously covered by woodland, and the native oaklands at Tomies are among the largest in the country, with the sessile oak trees there believed to be at least 200 years old and the remnants of a continuous ancient woodland.
The fire began near the Gap of Dunloe on high ground late on Wednesday night, and around 30 fire fighters and equipment from units in Killorglin, Kenmare, Killarney, and Castleisland, were called to the scene.
At first light yesterday, the firemen reassembled in the area and the army air corps put on notice.
The fire was still raging last night, high over the Gap of Dunloe. However, the Air Corps, which was earlier put on standby to assist with ‘Bambi-bombing’ the woods, has been stood down “for now”, said assistant chief fire officer Michael Flynn last night.
They had stopped the fire getting to Tomies, which was their priority but it a “back fire” of heather and furze was still raging.
His team were preparing to go out again last night to monitor the area. “It is still burning,” Mr Flynn said.
However, it appeared to be heading towards Purple Mountain, which was largely rocky and lacked vegetation.
Wildfire or upland burning is illegal since March 1 under the Wildlife Acts.
However, the recent spell of dry weather in Kerry has seen a number of fires in so-called upland commonage areas again in recent nights, particularly in the area of Killarney National Park.
The fires are being lit, despite warnings from the fire service, gardaí and the Department of Agriculture who say satellite-based technology will be employed to determine where the fires started and just who is set to gain by setting them.
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