MOUNTAINS AFLAME: The remains of two burning fires near Castlemaine in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Photo: Michael G Kenny

EXCLUSIVE

By Sean Moriarty

A spokesperson for Killarney Fire and Rescue has confirmed to the Killarney Advertiser that landowners are acting within the law by burning gorse at this time of the year. Concerns were raised on Tuesday and Wednesday night when several gorse fires in the area lit up the skies.

A large fire was reported in the Scartaglin area on Tuesday evening. A unit from Killarney Fire Station provided back-up to Castleisland Fire Station for this incident.

A second, smaller fire, was reported in the foothills of Strickeen Mountain at the same time.

A third fire near the communications mast at Leamnaguilla, Kilcummin was attended to by units of Killarney Fire and Rescue in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

“It was not such a big ordeal,” a Killarney officer, who attended the Kilcummin fire, told the Killarney Advertiser. “It is legal at this time of year, until February 28. No doubt there will be irresponsible people burning after this date and that is when people should be giving out. But they are giving out now when it is perfectly legal.”

On Wednesday night further gorse fires were reported in the Killarney area near Glenflesk and on Mangerton Mountain. Further afield there were gorse fires near Castlemaine and Inch.

Unseasonal dry underfoot conditions and the early week easterly winds helped fan the flames but the arrival of rain as well as snow on higher ground on Thursday helped contain the fires.

The practice of burning gorse bushes has long been controversial. Farmers defend the need to burn the upland gorse as it is an evasive plant and prevents animals from getting access mountainside grazing.

“Managed burning of gorse is good land management practice as it allows the regeneration of mountain land,” said an Irish Farmers Association statement.

Nature conservationists are opposed to the practice saying it causes damage to the natural habitats and disrupts wildlife in the area.