Watch: Drone footage of huge Armagh gorse fire captures scale of devastation
A gorse fire that raged across a Co Armagh mountain at the weekend was still burning last night, prompting fears of long-term environmental damage.
Intense flames could be seen from the village of Forkhill on Sunday, burning right from the peak to the bottom of Slieve Brack.
The mountain is a vital habitat for wildlife including snipe, frogs and smooth newts.
After the fire broke out close to an Area of Special Scientific Interest in Glendesha, fire crews were unable to get high enough to extinguish the flames and had no option but to let the blaze burn itself out. Darren Rice (33), a landscape manager for the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said it could take years for the environment to recover. "We don't know exactly how long, but we're talking somewhere in the region of four years," he added. "If it's not managed properly, bracken will come back up, which is pretty useless for biodiversity or agriculture. It seems to be one of the biggest fires we've had in a long time."
Sinn Fein councillor Mickey Larkin, who saw the fire on Sunday night, said: "It's a frightening sight. I saw the orange glow and it was intense. There hasn't been much rain over the week, so I'm sure it's dried out. It doesn't take much to set a fire like that. It spreads quickly."
Mr Larkin also admitted there had been arson attacks in the area.
"It's normally during the summer that there would be attempts to set fires," he said. "It endangers life and property and flora and fauna. It also sucks up the resources of the emergency services."