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Firefighters in six-hour gorse inferno

This dramatic picture shows the devastation caused as gorse fires swept through Flagstaff viewpoint in Co Down.

Fire crews were called out just after 4pm on Sunday to fight the blaze, which took over six hours for around 35 firefighters to bring under control.

Crews were at the scene until 2am yesterday.

The beauty spot, just south of Newry, was one of two large gorse fires, with another fire being fought on the other side of Carlingford Lough.

Around 50 hectares of land at the Flagstaff view point are understood to have been affected.

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said it has been environmentally disastrous, given the impact on trees and wildlife. He said: “The real danger was to our fire service personnel. The landscape is steep and rugged and the gorse is very tall and difficult to negotiate. This was a high-risk situation for our fire crews.”

Recent frosty weather was said to be a contributing factor to the speed with which the fire took hold as grasses killed by the cold weather were left dry and brittle and burned quickly.

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