Northern Ireland news

Firefighters tackle gorse fires in Northern Ireland

Firefighters battle to put out gorse fires in west Belfast. Picture Mal McCann

DOZENS of firefighters were involved since early yesterday in tackling numerous gorse fires.

Crews were alerted to three significant grass fires in counties Antrim and Down. Fires were also tackled near the Monagh Bypass in west Belfast.

A blaze was reported at about half past midnight near Flagstaff forest, Newry.

Six fire appliances and around 45 firefighters attended the scene, including a command support unit and specialist wildfire advisers.

Firefighters were also called to a grassland fire at about 7.12am near Altarichard forest outside Ballymoney, Co Antrim.

Nine fire appliances and approximately 65 firefighters attended, including a specialist wildfire team and a command support unit.

Crews were also assisted at both fires by others such as the Forestry Service, Envirionment Agency and Skywatch.

A third fire was reported at 11.30am near Happy Valley car park on Trassey Road outside Castlewellan, Co Down.

The fire service said it has received 910 calls since Friday, resulting in a response to 396 incidents across Northern Ireland, with 161 involving grass and wildfires.

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

"Due to the recent hot weather, grass and gorse is extremely dry and NIFRS [Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service] 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."

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