Gardaí investigate Torc blaze

Council's policing forum hears finding cause or culprit a difficult task

Simon Brouder

Gardai are still investigating the cause of the massive blaze that devastated vast swathes of Killarney National Park at the end of March.

The massive inferno - which it is thought was started by gorse burning - erupted on Torc Mountain on Friday, March 29, and tore through almost 200 acres of the National Park before fire fighters were eventually able to bring it under control.

The fire service spent 13 hours battling the massive blaze, which lit up the night sky and could be clearly seen from Killarney itself.

At last Friday's meeting of the Kerry Joint Policing Committee (JPC), newly installed Kerry Garda Chief Superintendent Eileen Foster was asked by several councillors what was being done to identify the cause of the fire and who, if anyone, was responsible.

Chief Supt Foster said that the cause of the blaze is being investigated, but she said the sheer scale of the fire made finding the source and cause difficult.

"We have members tasked to investigate it, but the area they are looking at is vast," she said.

She added that while Gardaí do all they can to monitor the park, its size makes the task remarkably difficult.

"We're tasked with monitoring the park, but it stretches for over 20,000 acres, and we can't be everywhere," she said.

"We would ask anyone with information on the Torc fire, or indeed on any fire, to get in contact with us. That sort of information is vital in these cases," said Chief Supt Foster.

At the JPC meeting, Independent Killarney Councillor Donal Grady acknowledged the difficulties of such investigations and asked if cuts to park services might have helped contribute to the damage caused by the Torc fire.

"I'm well aware of how hard it is to catch someone who puts a match to Killarney National Park ," he said.

"The fact is 15 of the park rangers are gone. The fire spotters are also gone and we wonder why fires can start and spread," said Cllr Grady.

"The resources are gone. It's wrong," he said.

Chair of the Kerry JPC Fianna Fáil Cllr Niall Kelleher - who insisted he was casting no aspersions on farmers who need to burn gorse on their lands - said more resources are needed to prevent such huge, out-of-control fires in the future.

"Enormous damage was caused to an amenity that belongs to us all. Every resource possible should be given to stamp this sort of thing out," said Cllr Kelleher.

Meanwhile, Kerry County Council this week released figures showing that the Kerry Fire Service was tasked to deal with 12 gorse fires across the county last weekend.

The fires broke out in Knocknagoshel, Caragh Lake, Brosna, Muckross and Moyvane.