The community has a role to play is preventing deliberate fire starting over Easter the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said.
Appealing for the public’s help in reducing the anti-social behaviour during the school holidays, NIFRS said it would encourage young people in particular to “act as ambassadors” for the service by advising their friends about the serious consequences of starting fires, attacking fire crews or making hoax calls.
Group commander Kevin O’Neill said the Easter holidays are traditionally a very busy time for NIFRS.
“Over the Easter period last year (30 March – 12 April 2015), firefighters dealt with 395 deliberate fires which included 198 gorse fires.
“There were seven attacks on firefighters and our Regional Control Centre received 68 hoax calls. Combined, these types of behaviours put an additional pressure on our Regional Control Centre staff who answer the 999 calls and our firefighters who have to respond to these incidents.
“While we deal with the issues of deliberate fire setting, hoax calls and attacks on firefighters throughout the year, we do find that over a school holiday period, such as Easter, there are unfortunately a small minority of people who continue to put an extra strain on our resources by engaging in such anti-social behaviour.”
Mr O’Neill added: “Setting fire to grass, bushes, rubbish etc is dangerous as these fires can quickly take hold and develop into larger fires which can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment. Attacking firefighters – people who are from your own local community and who work hard to protect the community – is totally unacceptable. Making hoax calls and diverting resources away from a potential real emergency is very short sighted because it could be someone from your family or one of your friends who need the help of firefighters in a real emergency.
“Remember, we may be the target but it’s you and your local community who are the victims. We need the support of the community to help us do our job which is ultimately to protect our community.”