Belfast Telegraph

Minister condemns forest arsonists

Arsonists blamed for a Co Down forest fire have destroyed wildlife and risked killing people, the Environment Minister said.

Alex Attwood condemned those responsible for the blaze that spread across 12 acres of the Mourne Mountains.

The fire raged in an area of Moneyscalp Forest, near Bryansford, on Friday and was re-ignited by weather conditions on Saturday.

Scores of firefighters fought the blaze on both occasions.

Mr Attwood said: "I note the PSNI believe this was a deliberate act of arson.

"Knowing that the hills would be busy with people making the most of the good weather, I find that particularly shocking.

"It would also have had a devastating effect on wildlife, with birds nesting in the gorse and heather."

The minister said he had tried to co-ordinate the official response to the threat of such fires by setting-up an inter-departmental taskforce last year following the spate of wildfires.

"Good work is being done by a range of bodies including the Fire and Rescue Service, the Forest Service, the Belfast Hills Partnership and the Mourne Heritage Trust.

"But this latest incident suggests that more needs to be done."

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