Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Wildfires burn on after dry weather

Firefighters take a rest from trying to contain a gorse fire in North Antrim, near Ballypatrick forest

The number of heathland fires in Northern Ireland has reduced, although many are still raging across the Republic.

Five fire appliances were still dealing with a large area of burning gorse and grass on the side of Knocklayde Mountain in Ballycastle, Co Antrim.

In the Mourne Mountains there is still smoke but no fires. A handful of minor gorse fires are being tackled in other parts of Northern Ireland but only one or two fire appliances have attended and the fire service said the fires were expected to be extinguished soon.

A spokeswoman said: "The number of fires is definitely well reduced."

On Monday firefighters in Northern Ireland battled their highest-ever number of blazes, with 282 gorse fires. On Sunday, the number was 201.

Two boys, aged 10 and 15, have been questioned by police about a gorse fire in County Tyrone.

The Mournes; Ballycastle, Co Antrim; Gortin, Co Tyrone and Rostrevor, Co Down, were badly affected. Chief Fire Officer Peter Craig said it had been "phenomenally busy".

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the holiday weekend had been the busiest in its history. At one stage, the service was getting a call every 45 seconds.

Police said people's lives had been put in danger, hundreds of acres of land destroyed and homes and livestock threatened by the fires.

The National Trust has warned that the fires will cause "immense damage" to the Mournes.

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