Warning issued over deliberate gorse fires

The scene of a gorse fire in Newry.
The scene of a gorse fire in Newry.

Firefighters in Northern Ireland have battled more than 500 gorse fires in one week - with more than 90% of them started deliberately.

Those starting the blazes have been given a stark warning that they are putting lives at risk.

A long period of unbroken sunshine has made for tinder dry conditions across the countryside.

Since last Monday, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has attended 511 gorse fires.

Of those, 466 were started deliberately.

The majority of the incidents have been in the south and west of the region. Crews at Downpatrick fire station in Co Down have been called out to 46 separate gorse fires in a week.

NIFRS Area Commander Maurice Rafferty said: "We are appealing to everyone within the community to remain vigilant when in the countryside.

"If you see a fire, report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. Don't attempt to tackle fires and leave the area as soon as possible.

"Deliberate fire setting has major consequences - it ties up our vital resources from other more serious incidents and potentially puts people and property at risk.

"These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.

"If anyone has any information in relation to fire setting, we would urge them to contact the PSNI.

"I would like to thank our crews who have worked under extremely hazardous conditions and intense heat to bring the fires under control."