The number of wildfires in Kerry has halved on calls for a ban on burning community land
Uncontrolled wildfires in Kerry have halved in 2022 from the same period last year, with a dramatic drop in illegal burning during the March-September period, when burning of commons is banned under the Wildlife Acts, preliminary figures show.
he blanket of smoke that blanketed the town of Dingle ahead of Christmas is prompting calls for a year-round ban on the practice of putting a match on the hills to clear gorse and scrub for grazing.
The problem of wildfires is acute in Kerry. In April 2021, the entire Killarney National Park was under threat after a fire started within the park spiraled out of control. It has not been determined what caused the fire but Gardai believe it was an accident. A report commissioned by the National Parks and Wildlife Service is pending.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Parks and Wildlife Service said, “The NPWS meets frequently with the Kerry County Council Fire Officer and Local Fire Officer to discuss fire patrols, surveillance and other necessary activities related to fire safety.”
Figures from Kerry County Council for the period January to September show a 46 per cent drop in response to runaway wildfires known as ‘gorse’ this year alone.
These stand at 111, down from 205 in the same period last year.
Since 2010, stakes in this category have dropped by many times that number, from 600 in 2010 to 200 in 2021.
The dramatic drop is due to a number of reasons, including public awareness but also the withdrawal of grants from farmers whose land is burned during the season when burning is illegal, the council says.
“The Department of Agriculture uses satellite imagery to identify burned areas and this is now ineligible under the basic farmer payment scheme.”
There is also a greater understanding of good practice and controlled burning, and in recent years farmers and mountain pasture firefighters have been notified.
“The pattern in Kerry has become that the vast majority of controlled burns are pre-reported to the Fire Control Center and inappropriate firefighting action is avoided,” the council spokesman said.
However, a blanket of smoke that descended on Dingle on Thursday 15 December has sparked growing anger in West Kerry as local GP and Green Party activist Dr. Peadar O’Fionnáin, questioned why burning gorse is allowed at any time of the year.
The GP spoke up after a large number of people arrived at his practice complaining of breathing difficulties.
“Burning down an ecosystem for little reason. Why is this still legal?” asked Dr. O’Fionnain on Twitter.
“Burning entire slopes is an incredibly harmful thing from a health perspective,” he said The Eye of Kerry Newspaper.
There was a lot of anger in Dingle over the fires as the hills overlooking the town were lit, he said.
The farmers took advantage of the dry season before Christmas, as they are allowed to burn between September and the end of February. But it means every nice clear day is ruined for the rest of the city, the GP said, and it’s also leading to an increase in asthma attacks and inhaler use.
However, Kerry County Councilman Johnny Healy-Rae is calling for the burn season to be extended to accommodate Kerry’s weather patterns. If scrubland is not burned for grazing, the risk becomes even greater.
“If they stop burning completely, we will have complete overgrowth,” said Mr. Healy-Rae.
He wants the burn season to be extended so farmers can burn in March to encourage spring growth. This had previously been considered but not followed up.
“The reality is there is very little time left – really just a week in which to burn, and the percentage of land that gets burned in Kerry is tiny,” the independent councilor said.
Farmers are very responsible when it comes to burning, he also said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/news/number-of-kerry-wildfires-halved-amid-calls-for-ban-on-commonage-burning-42250343.html The number of wildfires in Kerry has halved on calls for a ban on burning community land