“Entire National Park at risk from unrepairable fire damage” – local wildlife expert says
By Sean Moriarty
Forrest fires in Killarney National Park are putting the entire park and Muckross House at risk – well-known local nature lover and Mangerton resident Frank Lewis said this week.
22 firefighters from Killarney and Killorglin Fire Stations battled the flames – which could be seen from miles around – for more than eight hours.
The blaze, which destroyed 100 acres of scrublands near Torc Waterfall and the locally known Cardiac Hill, is believed to have started on the Old Kenmare Road, a popular hiking route, on the northern face of Mangerton Mountain, and quickly spread to the Torc Waterfall area.
Once the fire was contained near the summit of Mangerton, firefighters left for a short break and returned later on Saturday morning for a further three hours.
County fire officials and local Gardai are still investigating the cause of the fire.
The burning of dead grasslands is legal between September 1 and February 28. Farmers burn commonage to facilitate the growth of new grass for livestock grazing purposes.
However, Friday night’s inferno was not on commonage land and unconfirmed reports suggest it was caused by a irresponsibly discarded cigarette butt or the remains of a picnic or barbecue.
“If this fire spread any further in it could have taken out the entire tree cover of the national park, it could have taken out a place like Muckross House,” Mr Lewis, the presenter of Radio Kerry’s Saturday Supplement, said. “Controlled burning of land is for the benefit of everyone, and back in the day the Herbert Estate staff would burn certain parts every five years in a controlled way. But these wildfires are irresponsible and it is only a matter of time before the damage done will take generations to repair.”
Scrubland on the mountain top can grow as high as one metre and according to local sources this is adding to the fire risk. Locals believe that by extending the burning season in to the middle of March and by allowing annual burning of the same areas would reduce the risk of fires getting out of control.
They also believe that this would solve the roaming deer issues on main roads through the National Park.
“Deer want to graze on fresh grass and it is no longer available on high ground,” added a source who did not want to be named. “If the land was burned once a year it would reduce the risk and fresh grass would grow on the mountain top so the deer would not roam on the roads.”