Belfast Telegraph

2,758 fire calls in single day as dry weather continues

By Allan Preston

Firefighters faced nearly 3,000 calls in one day this week due to increased gorse blazes and "exceptional" hot weather across the province.

From 8am on Wednesday the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service's regional control centre dealt with 2,758 calls.

That was a 45% increase compared to the previous Wednesday.

Crews mobilised for 1,456 incidents, including 665 gorse-related ones.

In Co Antrim yesterday 50 firefighters were continuing to tackle a wildfire in the Drumack Road area of Rasharkin.

At one point the blaze front was 800m long, with heavy plumes of smoke affecting roads and residents advised to keep doors and windows closed.

On Wednesday another gorse fire near to houses in west Belfast had to be extinguished. It is believed to have been started deliberately.

Assistant Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley said all necessary operational personnel were available to deal with the current demands, with additional crews and appliances on standby.

"I would like to thank our firefighters, who have worked under intense heat and extremely hazardous and challenging conditions to bring the recent gorse fires under control," he said.

"Our regional control centre personnel and support staff have also played a critical role in ensuring the effective utilisation of resources."

And he thanked employers of retained firefighters who have released staff to help their full-time colleagues battle blazes.

He said that the remote locations of gorse fires made them especially hard for his officers to extinguish.

"Gorse fires can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment, as well as placing extra strain on NIFRS resources," added Mr Walmsley.

"We urge everyone in the community to remain vigilant when in the countryside.

"Don't throw away cigarettes or leave rubbish lying around, use the bins provided.

"Take care not to leave glass bottles on the ground and ensure barbecues are properly extinguished."

He also urged people to report gorse fires immediately, leave the area, and not try to put them out themselves.

Our heatwave is set to continue well into next week after a cooler and cloudier break yesterday.

Met Office forecaster Steven Keates said some minor showers are possible over the weekend, but there won't be enough rain to end the ongoing hosepipe ban.

Mr Keates predicted it would be at least 10 days before rain-starved gardens and dusty cars would get a helping hand from the weather.

NI Water has warned there is an "unprecedented" demand on supplies and that parts of Belfast and Armagh have already been affected.

Belfast Telegraph

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