Firefighters had to to hike up hills with heavy equipment after a huge fire broke out at the Tomies, on the westernmost edge of the 10,000 hectare Killarney National Park late on Wednesday.
They used hand-held beaters to turn the fire which was only brought under control early yesterday morning when rain saved the service from having to call in the army air corps helicopter, which had been on standby since Thursday morning.
Kerry’s assistant chief fire officer Mike Flynn said the main fire seems to have begun around 568 metres up on Tomies Rock, to the rear of Kate Kearney’s Cottage in the Gap of Dunloe.
Six fire tenders were gathered and personnel drawn from four different fire services on Wednesday and Thursday.
Speaking from the area early yesterday, Mr Flynn said hundreds of acres of heather and upland plants had been burnt “to a pure black char” and no nesting birds, wildlife, or plant life remained.
The Killarney wildfire cost an estimated at €10,000.
Pat Dawson regional manager with the National Parks and Wildlife Service said those protecting Killarney National Park were in fear of wildfires at this time of year. He said the cost to wildlife and habitats was huge, and there was also a threat to property and life.
“We will be co-operating with gardaí to see where the fire started,” Mr Dawson said.
Upland and so-called commonage burning is illegal since March 1. The IWT is resisting attempts to change the Wildlife Acts and allow burning continue into April.
On Tuesday it asked the public for feedback on illegal fires — and so far has logged or had reports of fires in the Slieve Mish Mountains, Clifden, Connemara, and a number of other locations including near Baltimore in West Cork.
It says wildfires, particularly if they reoccur, devastate the landscape.
The fire service in Kerry also fought huge blazes in Kilcummin between Killarney and Castleisland on Thursday night, and in Waterville in south Kerry the previous night.