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Warning as NI Fire Service tackle 170 wildfires over weekend

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has issued a warning to the public after tackling over 170 grass and wildfires over the weekend.

On Monday morning 156 firefighters were at three separate fires with fire chiefs saying they would likely remain there for sometime.

A Belfast MP said the fires - as well as an arson attack in the city at the Crumlin Road Courthouse - was putting a huge strain on emergency services at a time when they are dealing with a global health pandemic.

On Monday morning the Fire Service said 45 firefighters were at a grassland fire close to Flagstaff forest, outside Newry.

Just after 7am the service was also sent to a fire at Altnarichard forest at Ballymoney.

Nine fire appliances with approximately 65 firefighters were on the scene, including a Specialist Wildfire Team and a command support unit at midday on Monday.

And they attended another fire in Castlewellan close to Happy Valley car park. Forty-six firefighters attended.

A Fire Service spokesman said: "Since Friday morning NIFRS has responded to 448 incidents across Northern Ireland, 171 of these have involved grass and wildfire.

"This has been an exceptionally busy Spring period for fire crews who have worked hard in tough conditions to extinguish these wildfires.

"NIFRS are being assisted by representatives from other support services at both these incidents including The Forestry service, NIEA and Skywatch. It is anticipated that NIFRS will be committed throughout today at these incidents.

"Due to the recent hot weather, grass and gorse is extremely dry and NIFRS would appeal to members of the public not to light small fires or disposable barbecues as these can lead to significant wildfire incidents and damage to the countryside.

"We would ask members of the public to avoid these areas at present to facilitate the movement of appliances to and from the incidents."

A large fire in the nature reserve in the Belfast Harbour area led to a warning for some Belfast residents to shut doors and windows as a large plume of smoke engulfed the city on Sunday.

Sinn Fein MP John Finucane praised the actions of the Fire Service.

"These type of incidents are reckless and are putting more stress on the emergency services at a time when they are already under intense pressure," he said.

Belfast Telegraph