Catastrophic Mournes fire ‘started deliberately’: NIFRS
The weekend fire that devastated 3.5 square kilometers of healthland in the Mourne mountains is believed to have been started deliberately, the NI Fire and Rescue Service has said.
For three days, firefighters battled the blaze that was visible for many miles before the operation began to wind down on Sunday afternoon.
At one point more than 100 firefighters were involved, along with 12 appliance and a specialist rescue team.
Coastguard helicopters were also utilised in an effort to give fire chiefs an aerial view of the wildfire.
Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Michael Graham said: “Calling an incident like this challenging doesn’t do justice to the effort our firefighters have put in over this weekend.
“The pictures we’ve seen on social media have shown us how hard they worked in intense conditions to extinguish this huge fire and prevent it spreading to threaten human life or property. While I am proud of the work our people did, we are all saddened by the destruction this fire has caused to our natural environment.
“I want to also pay tribute to those who weren’t on the Mountain but who were crucial to the success of our operations. Our Regional Control Centre played a crucial role in coordinating our response and making sure we continued to protect our whole community while dealing with this incident along with many Support employees working diligently behind the scenes.
“I also want to thank all of our firefighters who weren’t directly involved in this incident for the work they’ve continued to do all weekend in responding to the almost 400 other incidents we’ve attended over this period.
“Thanks to their hard work we have continued to protect our community, while dealing with a major incident without missing a beat.
“This was a truly multi-agency incident. I want to thank our colleagues in the Department of Health and minister Robin Swann for their support this weekend. We work closely with our partner agencies on a daily basis preparing for an incident like this.
“That hard work paid off over this weekend as we were able to quickly and effectively work together. We could not have done the work we did without their help.”
Mr Graham added: “Finally thank you to our whole community for their support. I speak for every single firefighter and every single NIFRS employee when I say that we have been blown away by the outpouring of support we have seen.
“We have simply lost track of the number of people who contacted us offering anything they could to help us. We are proud to be an important part of such a generous and kind community.
“For everyone out there who watched the fire this weekend with horror, there is one thing we ask of you – help us prevent these fires starting in the first place.
“Don’t start fires in the countryside. Don’t be careless with smoking materials or glass. Don’t be careless with barbeques or any other flames.
“When the people of Northern Ireland need us we are there, trained and ready to deal with incidents like this but the responsibility of preventing wildfires belongs to all of us. We are all safer when we work together.”