Blaze warning  | 

Motorists warned to drive carefully as a 'severe fire' rages in Killarney National Park

There is reduced visibility in the area due to smoke from the blaze that broke out last night

Two people watch an army helicopter spread water after filling up from the Upper Lake as it tackles fires on the McGillycuddy Reeks near Killarney on Saturday. Photo: Don MacMonagle

Neil Fetherstonhaugh

Motorists traveling on the N71 have been warned to be careful as the emergency services battle a “severe fire” that is raging within Killarney National Park, Co Kerry.

There is expected traffic congestion in the Five Mile Bridge area in particular as vehicles of the National Parks and Wildlife Service gather to assist those of the Fire Services.

There is also reduced visibility in the area due to smoke from the blaze that broke out late on Friday night and has been fanned by a strong breeze today.

Several fire engines and water tankers are at the scene and water is being taken from the lake to fight the flames spotted in the area of the Eagle Nest and along the Long Range within the park.

Huge fires were contained north of Killarney, in the Currow area and north of Castleisland overnight by crews from Tralee, and Abbeyfeale in Co Limerick attempting to protect homes while minimising damage to forestry.

The huge blaze has spread deeper into the park between Castleisland and Brosna on the Limerick border.

An army helicopter has also been assigned to scoop water from the upper lake and the long-range river.

In a statement issued this evening, Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said the cause of the fire was not yet known but that an investigation would be carried out to establish what had happened.

“I would appeal to members of the public to be conscious of the dangers posed by fire on open ground,” the minister said.

“Even planned or controlled burning can get out of hand very quickly.

“So, it is critically important that every member of society realises the damage that can be caused to property and, indeed, the health and welfare of family, neighbours and the wider community, and the responding emergency services.”

Minister Noonan pointed out that uncontrolled burning can kill nesting birds like the curlew which has been lost from huge areas of Ireland.

“It can destroy other species and habitats, damage commercial forestry and leave areas unsuitable for grazing for a long period of time,” he added.

“Uncontrolled and unplanned burning can result in a monoculture of more dominant, stagnant vegetation types over large areas.

The blaze flared today on what has been the warmest day of the year so far with bright sunshine and high temperatures.

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