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1,000 fires tackled in four days

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Firefighters try to contain a gorse fire in North Antrim, near Ballypatrick forest

Firefighters try to contain a gorse fire in North Antrim, near Ballypatrick forest

Firefighters try to contain a gorse fire in North Antrim, near Ballypatrick forest

Firefighters in Northern Ireland have tackled more than 1,000 gorse and forest fires in the past four days.

Over the last 24 hours 200 personnel have battled 255 fires in 31 locations, according to the province's deputy chief fire officer Chris Kerr.

It is believed most of the blazes, which have caused widespread damage to scenic beauty spots and conservation areas, were started deliberately.

"Over the past two weeks Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has responded to a total of 1,828 gorse and forestry fires across Northern Ireland, dealing with 1,010 of those fires over the past four days," Mr Kerr said on Wednesday.

"The high level of operational activity continues due to the dry weather conditions and high winds. From May 3, 2011 to this morning at 1000 hours firefighters have tackled 255 gorse fires at 31 locations across Northern Ireland with over 200 personnel deployed in Ballycastle, Garvagh, Omagh, to name a few.

"I would appeal directly to the public not to go near gorse land or grassland areas where these incidents are ongoing as it can be extremely dangerous due to the potential for rapid fire spread.

"The dedication of our fire crews has been nothing short of outstanding and they remain engaged in firefighting operations to protect life, property and the environment."

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Meanwhile, NI Water has urged the public to stay away from the Mourne mountains in Co Down to minimise the risk to an area that is a crucial catchment area for Northern Ireland`s water supply. The company asked people to avoid walking in the area until it experiences some rain and conditions are not so dry.

Water from the Mournes runs into Ben Crom and Silent Valley reservoirs and is transported from there to water treatment works where it is treated to drinking water standard.

The company said while the quality of water running into Silent Valley was being affected by the fires, there would be no impact on the quality of treated water coming through customers' taps. But it said there will be a cost implication for the extra treatment needed for the polluted water.


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