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Praise for firefighters who tackle serious gorse fires

While the record breaking temperatures have been a welcome bonus for people enjoying a break over the Easter period, the warm and dry weather has unfortunately also brought additional problems for our firefighters who have had to deal with major gorse fires.

The situation in Newcastle, Co Down on Sunday evening was particularly worrying with a fire front of nearly a mile long advancing rapidly after starting at Donard Forest at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.

More than 50 firefighters in eight appliances worked through the night to bring what was described as a 'running wildfire' under control.

However, while it was raging, holidaymakers at Bonny's Caravan Park in Newcastle were evacuated from the site while people living in Tullybrannigan Road were also forced to leave their homes.

Dramatic images posted on social media showed just how close the flames came to the caravan site which was full of holidaymakers on an exceptionally busy weekend.

This was undoubtedly an alarming and frightening experience for those in the vicinity but all credit is due to the emergency services and other personnel who ensured that people were moved to places of safety, in this case a leisure centre, a church hall and a hostel.

When a fire is burning so fiercely and moving with such speed, actually jumping across the top of high areas of gorse according to a senior fire officer, then all appropriate steps need to be taken to make sure members of the public are kept safe.

Thankfully, there were no injuries on this occasion but clearly any fast developing fire poses a high risk to both people and property.

Fire service group commander Eddie Carroll told the BBC yesterday that the vast majority of gorse fires are started deliberately and later in the day the PSNI confirmed the Newcastle blaze was being treated as suspicious.

Anyone who can help police with their investigation into this blaze should come forward.

It is disturbing to think that anyone would intentionally start a fire in tinder dry vegetation where any outbreak was likely to spread quickly with potentially devastating consequences.

Meanwhile, firefighters battled serious gorse fires in west Donegal, with reports that one house has been badly damaged.

During this hot, dry spell, when the risk of wildfire increases, it is essential that people act responsibly when using forest parks and make sure they take care with flammable materials.

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