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Firefighters tackle more than 6,000 blazes during pandemic

The figure represents an increase of almost 500 on the same period in 2019.

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Firefighters battle a major gorse fire on the outskirts of the Docks in Belfast on May 31st 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle a major gorse fire on the outskirts of the Docks in Belfast on May 31st 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle an overnight Blaze on Monday June 1st 2020 at the Crumlin Road Court House - 

Picture - NIFRS East

Firefighters battle an overnight Blaze on Monday June 1st 2020 at the Crumlin Road Court House - Picture - NIFRS East

Firefighters battle a gorse fire in the New Mossley area of Newtownabbey on May 11th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle a gorse fire in the New Mossley area of Newtownabbey on May 11th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters from Lisburn Fire Station battle a blaze on the White Mountain close to Groganstown Road on the outskirts of Belfast, May 31st 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters from Lisburn Fire Station battle a blaze on the White Mountain close to Groganstown Road on the outskirts of Belfast, May 31st 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Fire fighters battle a large gorse fire close to the Glen Road Heights area west Belfast on May 26th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Fire fighters battle a large gorse fire close to the Glen Road Heights area west Belfast on May 26th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters tackle a fire in a block of flats in the Shaw's Road area of west Belfast on May 24th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters tackle a fire in a block of flats in the Shaw's Road area of west Belfast on May 24th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle a two day gorse fire on the Reenaderry road outside Dungannon on April 14th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle a two day gorse fire on the Reenaderry road outside Dungannon on April 14th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters tackling a large fire at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Firefighters tackling a large fire at Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast (Liam McBurney/PA)

Firefighters battle a major gorse fire on the outskirts of the Docks in Belfast on May 31st 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters have tackled more than 6,000 blazes in Northern Ireland during the coronavirus pandemic.

The figure represents an increase of almost 500 incidents compared to the same period of time in 2019.

Statistics released by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) show its personnel responded to 6,294 incidents from March to May 2020, up from 5,837 incidents in the same period in 2019.

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A blaze across a large area of gorse in Newry (Niall Carson/PA)

A blaze across a large area of gorse in Newry (Niall Carson/PA)

PA

A blaze across a large area of gorse in Newry (Niall Carson/PA)

The rise represents a 50% increase in accidental house fires, a 76% increase in wildfires as well as a 60% drop in the number of road traffic collisions.

Chief fire and rescue officer Michael Graham said some of the major blazes included fires at Crumlin Road court house and the Bombardier plant.

“We’ve seen a difference in the types of incidents we’re attending, with a decrease in road traffic collisions because people are travelling less,” he said.

Every single one of these incidents is something we are trying to avoid but I am pleased to say that the number of house fires we’re attending has been falling.Michael Graham

“However in March 2020 we saw a serious rise in the number of accidental dwelling fires as people spent more time at home in lockdown, with firefighters attending 231 accidental house fires in March, April and May, with one person tragically losing their life.

“Every single one of these incidents is something we are trying to avoid but I am pleased to say that the number of house fires we’re attending has been falling.

“During the pandemic we’ve been working really hard with our partners, including the Department for Communities, to provide fire safety advice to people who need our help the most and I believe the decrease in the number of accidental house fires in the last few weeks reflect the positive outcome of that work.”

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A fire at the Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast (Joel Neill/PA)

A fire at the Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast (Joel Neill/PA)

PA

A fire at the Bombardier Aerospace plant in Belfast (Joel Neill/PA)

Mr Graham said the service has faced more challenges due to the pandemic but it has avoided the “very worst-case scenario”.

“The organisation, however, continues to operate with extreme caution implementing strict preventative and protective measures to protect its people and the public,” he added.

“As we move into the recovery phase and the ‘new normal’, we are acutely aware that we need to remain cautious.

“We’re continuing to protect our people through proactive measures to maintain social distancing where we can, providing all necessary PPE and allowing people to work from home where it’s possible, among other measures.

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Firefighters battle a two day gorse fire on the Reenaderry road outside Dungannon on April 14th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle a two day gorse fire on the Reenaderry road outside Dungannon on April 14th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle a two day gorse fire on the Reenaderry road outside Dungannon on April 14th 2020 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

“The public have an absolutely vital role to play in supporting their firefighters. They must continue to exercise extreme caution when it comes to fire safety at home and in the countryside, and as businesses open up again, over the coming days, we would ask everyone to think about fire safety in the workplace at this difficult time.

“These have been a tough few months and there are considerable challenges ahead, but with the support of the public our firefighters will continue to be there when our community needs us most.”

PA