EXHAUSTED firemen and other dedicated emergency service personnel, most of whom have been at the scene for several hours, are continuing their major battle to try to bring a massive wildfire in Killarney National Park under control.
Their efforts are being severely hampered by a strong breeze which is whipping up the flames and spreading it across the park, leaving a devastating trail of destruction in its wake.
Birds, insects and other wildlife have been wiped out and major concern is now mounting about the threat to the spectacular ancient oakwoods near the Eagle’s Nest and other areas of the iconic park.
The out of control fire, which was sparked close to midnight and was most likely started maliciously, will be the subject of a Garda investigation to try to determine how it occurred.
The blaze was first spotted in the area known as the the Eagles Nest and along the Long Rang River but it continued to spread at pace over very dry terrain, despite the best efforts of firefighters, park rangers, Kerry County Council crews and the air corps.
Water is being taken from the lakes to pump into the park and the helicopter is also lifting water from the Upper Lake and dropping it on to the worst affected areas.
Mayor of Kerry, Cllr Patrick O’Connor Scarteen, who visited the scene on two occasions today, said it seems the fire is spreading over the mountains and so much wildlife has already been either destroyed or displaced.
He said the it is believed the blaze is the worst outbreak seen in the park since the dreadful fires of 1984 and the main priority this evening it to prevent it from spreading to adjoining farmland or close to dwellings.
“It’s absolutely dreadful to see this happening to our most iconic attraction,” the mayor told KillarneyToday.com.
He paid tribute to the fire service, OPW and NPWS staff, Kerry County Council personnel and the army who “have gone above and beyond the call of duty” in prolonged and ongoing attempts to quell the blaze.
Mayor O’Connor Scarteen pleaded with the public not to even consider lighting fires anywhere near the national park or near any park for that matter.
“They are welcome to enjoy the county and the great outdoors but this is a shocking example of what can go wrong,” he said.
“Look at the resources, the cost, the manpower and the effort that has gone into this operation to try to curtail the fire and prevent it from spreading and look at the damage it has caused,” the mayor added.