Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Barbecues in Mournes could turn tinder-dry woods into an inferno

Concerns that disposable barbecues could spark a potentially fatal fire in the Mournes are mounting as the heatwave continues.

Mourne Mountain Rescue Team (MMRT) issued a stark appeal yesterday as hundreds of campers make the best of the heatwave and head for the Co Down beauty spot.

Martin McMullan from MMRT said sprawling local forests are now tinder dry following weeks of high temperatures and little rain.

Hundreds of campers using disposable barbecues and lighting campfires in secluded parts of the mountain range are causing serious concerns for local rescue teams.

"Several hundred people are camping in different areas of the Mournes every night at the minute. They are going into the mountains for a few drinks and a barbecue and the mountains are very, very dry. It's like a tinderbox," Mr McMullan said.

"If you get a fire started in a forest and you have several groups camping in the forests, there's a real risk of loss of life."

His warning came as forecasters predicted that the heatwave will continue into next week.

"We just ask people to be very mindful that they should not be lighting fires in forests," Mr McMullan said.

"Police are doing patrols along with enforcement officers from Down District and Newry and Mourne councils.

"But if you think of one or two police officers and you have got thousands of acres of forest – where do you start?"

A 'level three heat health watch' has been issued for parts of England amid what is reported to be Britain's driest July for 247 years.

In Northern Ireland the temperatures are milder, but no less consistent.

Today will see a high of 22C, with the weekend promising temperatures of between 20C and 22C. On Monday the mercury will dip slightly to 19C, but the sun is set to keep shining.

Northern Ireland Water has said there are no plans to issue a ban on hose pipes here.

Yesterday, councils also reissued warnings against swimming in disused quarries.

It follows the tragedy of 15-year-old Kevin O'Hare and Colin Polland. The boy got into difficulties in a disused Co Down quarry last month and brave Colin tried to save him. Unfortunately both died.

"Don't forget folks. Stay safe and stay out of quarries this summer," Craigavon Council tweeted, on the back of a Government appeal warning of the dangers.

The hot weather has also been keeping rescue teams busy. A 23-year-old walker was rescued by police from the Mournes last Friday. She was suffering from severe dehydration and heat exhaustion when officers came to her aid.

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