Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters attend 221 gorse fires in just four days in Northern Ireland

By Claire Williamson

Firefighters have attended 221 gorse fires in Northern Ireland in just four days.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is warning of the extreme dangers and serious consequences of deliberate fire setting in the countryside.

Since Monday, May 1 the NIFRS attended 221 gorse fires compared to 19 for the same period in 2016. The NIFRS said 92% or 204 of these were started deliberately.

Downpatrick and Lurgan have been the busiest stations with 26 and 22 incidents respectively.

The NIFRS is reminding the public that dealing with the incidents puts additional pressure on resources as well as putting firefighters' lives at risk.

Area Commander, Maurice Rafferty said: “The current spell of dry, sunny weather has provided a tinderbox landscape with conditions ripe for gorse fires to take hold.  We have already dealt with the first gorse fires of the year so we are appealing to the public, and young people in particular, to support their fire and rescue service by acting responsibly.

“Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us. It means deploying Firefighters and equipment to remote locations. This can be for prolonged periods of time with our crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control. These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.

“It’s not just the larger fires on hillsides and mountains that impact upon resources, the smaller fires involving grass and bushes also need to be dealt with quickly as they have the potential to spread and develop into bigger fires. Attending such incidents puts additional pressure on our people and our resources. 

“We are appealing to everyone within the local community to be aware of the dangers and consequences of deliberate fire setting.  It ties up our vital resources from other more serious incidents and potentially puts people and property at risk.

"While the majority of gorse fires attended by NIFRS are started deliberately they can also be started unintentionally by thoughtless and careless behaviour. Both deliberate and accidental fires can cost lives and NIFRS is asking that the public heed fire safety advice to protect themselves and the countryside. "

NIFRS safety advice

Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly.

Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows.

Only use barbecues in designated and safe areas and never leave them unattended. Keep children and ball games away from barbecues.

Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents.

Avoid using open fires in the countryside.

Do not leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin.

If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Don’t attempt to tackle fires that will take more than a bucket of water to put out.  Leave the area as soon as possible.

Report any suspicious behaviour to the police.

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