A large and very serious wildfire is burning in Killarney National Park, Co. Kerry.

National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and fire brigade are currently on site dealing with the incident.

Government bodies are working with other agencies in the are to establish the cause of the fire.

A statement made by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage explained several areas of the park were closed until further notice:

  • Gotderraree;
  • Derrycunnihy;
  • Gallavally;
  • Cahernaduv;
  • Gearhameen;
  • Doogary, Eagles nest; and
  • The Five Mile.

Members of the public are also asked to exercise caution if travelling on the N71, as the emergency services vehicles in the area may cause some traffic congestion near the Five Mile Bridge. Motorists are also warned there may be reduced visibility in the area due to smoke.

Minister of State for Heritage, Malcolm Noonan said: “I would like to take this opportunity, firstly, to put on official record my thanks to the Kerry Fire Service, Killarney Water Rescue, An Garda Síochána, the Air Corps and my National Park and Wildlife Service staff in Killarney, who are working tirelessly to quench this fire.

“The cause of the fire is not yet known and the NPWS will be following up with authorities including the Kerry Fire Services to ascertain the circumstances surrounding the blaze once circumstances permit.

“Wildfires are generally not a natural phenomenon in Ireland. Aside from the obvious pressures placed on the emergency services and NPWS during the current pandemic, fires are particularly destructive in spring and early summer as it is the prime season for nesting birds, breeding mammals and the regeneration of growth and habitats after the winter period.

The effect on biodiversity

“Uncontrolled fires in these high conservation value designated Natura 2000 landscapes (SAC/SPA) have a long-lasting negative impact on the biodiversity of the area. This impact is often wider than just the footprint of the burnt area.

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

“I would appeal to members of the public to be conscious of the dangers posed by fire on open ground. Even planned and/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.

“The main source of wildfires is frequently thought to be the deliberate starting of fires without concern for the consequences.

“Aside from such malicious activities, one of the main challenges is to encourage members of the public (including landowners, farmers and recreational users of publicly accessible land) to act responsibly at all times, to be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, to be mindful of the need to protect property, both publicly owned and privately owned and to appreciate the value of our natural heritage.”

It comes amid calls for an all-island wildlife strategy, as 70 fire-fighters tackle gorse fires on the Mourne Mountains.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has now declared a major incident.