NewsNorthern Ireland

Over 200 gorse fires started deliberately this week alone

Over 200 gorse fires started deliberately this week alone

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has attended over 200 gorse fires in the last week.

There were a total of 221 incidents since Monday - compared with 19 incidents which were reported in the same time last year. 

Yesterday 60 firefighters tackled a blaze in Newry which came dangerously close to homes and a school.

Homes in the Barley Lane area had to be evacuated after a major fire was reported near St Mary's High School shortly before 9pm.

It took eight appliances until 2am to bring the fire under control. 

NIFRS Area Commander Maurice Rafferty said: "Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us. It means deploying firefighters and equipment to remote locations for prolonged periods of time with our crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control.

"The fires can easily spread and a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.

"It's not just the larger fires on hillsides and mountains that impact upon resources, the smaller fires involving grass and bushes also need to be dealt with quickly as they have the potential to spread into bigger fires."

The PSNI urged those who deliberately set gorse fires to consider the consequences of their actions.

Superintendent Emma Bond said: " Since Monday 1st May we have seen almost 250 fires across the country, with the majority, we believe, having been set deliberately. Gorse fires have the potential to cause widespread damage to the environment and harm to wildlife, as well as threatening homes, farms and the people living in those areas. The unpredictability of fire can also mean that those setting them may be putting their own lives at risk as well as the lives of the fire service personnel and other emergency services tasked to deal with them. There can also be untold consequences to tying up crucial emergency resources that may be needed elsewhere. 

"I would appeal to those people who are causing the fires to think of their actions and the consequences of them, and I would ask anyone with any information which could help us identify those involved to contact their local police station on 101 and pass that information on.”