As the dry weather continues, visitors to rural areas, as well as residents, have been urged to act responsibly and be vigilant for wildfires especially over this bank holiday weekend.
The collective appeal from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, PSNI and Ulster Farmers Union comes after firefighters from across the region battled wildfires in the Mourne Mountains last weekend
Environment Minister Edwin Poots said the incident has shown how quickly a wildfire can spread, creating significant risk to life and property while also causing extensive environmental damage and diverting the emergency services resources away from where they are most needed, protecting and serving the community.
“With the COVID-19 restrictions starting to relax and people travelling to see friends, family and enjoy the countryside, the need for responsible behaviour and increased vigilance at this time cannot be overstated,” Mr Poots said.
“The wildfire risk increases with members of the public taking advantage to get back into the countryside. The use of barbeques, camp fires and other open ignition sources should be avoided in or near areas where there is a risk of a vegetation fire starting (areas with gorse, forestry, heather or dry grasses).
“On behalf of all partner organisations I am asking the public, farmers, rural dwellers and other countryside users to be extremely vigilant regarding the use of fire. Please report any suspicious or illegal activity to the PSNI via 999 and report all fires immediately to the NIFRS via 999.”
There remains a risk of wildfire across Northern Ireland. Fires can take hold and spread quickly on dry ground, with potentially devastating consequences.
Extra caution is also advised with respect to use of machinery and other agricultural activity that may also present a risk of fire in dry vegetation on cultivated land in the current conditions.