Farm Ireland

Saturday 19 January 2019

Mountains ablaze before cold snap hits Kerry

Gorse fire on Carrauntooil
Gorse fire on Carrauntooil

Stephen Fernane

With days to go before the March 1 deadline, the mountains around Kerry blazed last weekend as famers availed of a rare dry spell to clear gorse.

The Kerryman reports that clouds of smoke from fires near Caherdaniel, Castlegregory, Camp and the foothills of Carrantuohill reached skywards on Saturday and Sunday with winds even causing pockets of smoke to drift towards homes in Caherdaniel.

An amazing image of a smoke-filled Carrauntoohill was captured by a local photographer who was driving towards Moll's Gap on Monday evening.

"I noticed the thick plumes of smoke and it was near Carrauntoohill that I first saw the flames. Once I had driven passed Kissane's sheep farm I was able to safely pullover. It's a rare enough event, but luckily I had my camera with me and I was able to stop and capture the image.

"It's a dramatic looking photograph for sure," said the photographer, who wished to remain anonymous. 

Although the weekend's gorse fires are legal, the problem of illegal fires taking place within the deadlines of March 1 and August 31 was regularly flouted in 2017 with fires being lit well into April.

Outside the specified deadlines, Gorse fires are illegal under Section 40 of Wildlife Act 1976 - a law enacted to ensure the legal protection of birds which allows them to establish territories, make nests, lay eggs, rear chicks, and fledge chicks in upland areas.

However, there has been pressure to have the deadline extended until April 1.

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The Forest Service has this week issued a Extreme Fire Danger Risk warning, its highest level warning due to extremely dry weather.

It says under these extreme Fire Risk Conditions which are likely to peak tomorrow Wednesday and Thursday that any ignition source in hazardous fuels will give rise to rapid and unpredictable wildfire development and spread.

Under these conditions, in upland situations fire can be expected to cover extensive areas and pose extreme difficulties to suppression efforts and may potentially likely give rise to Major Emergency scenarios.

Analysis suggests that risks will be most acute in Western Coastal regions.

Pending further review, this risk condition will remain in place until 1200hrs on Friday, March 2, 2018 and will revert to Condition ORANGE at this point until further notice.