A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire Rescue Service has condemned what are the likely arson attacks across Northern Ireland where 60 out of 68 fire stations are currently busy with fighting gorse fires. He added that while firemen are fighting gorse fires they they are directing a limited resource to protecting the public effectively from house fires and car accidents.
The hot dry weather coupled with a strong breeze has created ideal conditions for gorse fires and already this year the NIFRS has had to commit a significant part of its resources in this direction.
Last summer the Mournes saw a spate of gorse fires believed to be deliberate and today (31st April) alone there are 10 large fires raging across the Mournes. A NIFRS spokesman said in some places the flames were 40-feet hight and the fire was travelling faster than a person could run.
Green Party South Down Assembly candidate Down District Councillor Cadogan Enright said, “This annual outrage of fires in the Mournes is absolutely disgraceful. It does huge damage to our precious environmnent, and at a time of the year when birds are nesting again our wildlife is put under unnecessary pressures. It is just damaging our whole Mournes biodiversity. It will have a serious effect too on our tourist industry by driving away possible tourists. This loss of footfall in the area means quite simply a loss of revenue for small local businesses.
“There must be a huge cost to the public purse attached to this as fire fighters repeatedly are called out through the summer. The PSNI need to be informed of any information that can lead to a conviction for arson. This is just an annual torment and local residents in the Mournes and businesses all suffer from these gorse fires. It is just wanton vandalism and must be stopped now.” Councillor Enright added that there was potential for someone to be killed in the gorse fires which rage out of control.
The rich array of flora and fauna that makes the Mournes such as attractive place for visitors has been severely threatened by the recent gorse fires. Down News has learned that one rare species, the Common Lizard, has a population in one area around the Mournes. A wanton fire could simply wipe this population out in an instant. It would be tragic if the first news that people heard of the lizards in the Mournes was news of their theatened or actual extinction.
Check out the link to see more about the Common Lizard, one our our little known natural treasures. http://www.doeni.gov.uk/niea/biodiversity/habitats-2/peatlands/wildlife_and_plants/peatland_wildlife/wildlife_amphibians_reptiles/wildlife_reptiles_common_lizard.htm
RITCHIE: FIRESETTERS ENDANGERING AND DAMAGING EVERYONE
SDLP Leader and South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said those responsible for firesetting on hills and mountains are endangering lives and damaging our economic prospects.
She said, “We have an immediate danger with 60 out of 68 fire stations out fighting gorse fires which means that our ordinary cover is drastically reduced. The gorse fires are now so widespread that the Fire Service cannot possibly tackle them all. But with fire officers now warning people to stay out of large parts of the Mournes because the fire can move so quickly in the strong winds we are having. That means we are getting direct economic damage to tourism.
“There is no longer any doubt that most of these fires are being deliberately set on a huge scale and if this continues the consequences could be tragic. This is
no minor foolhardy vandalism, it is life-threatening criminality and those responsible need to face justice.”
RUANE CONDEMNS MOURNE ARSONISTS
South Down Sinn Féin Assembly candidate Caitríona Ruane has condemned the people responsible for deliberately setting gorse fires in the Mournes.
Ms Ruane said, “Gorse fires in the high Mournes have caused widespread devastation with fire crews having to tackle 40 foot high flames.
“The fact that people have been urged not to walk or camp on the Mournes highlights just how dangerous these fires are and I would everyone to heed this advice.
“I wish also to commend the emergency services who have been dealing with these blazes and whose actions have undoubtedly saved lives and property.
“Everything possible must be done to catch the mindless arsonists who are starting these fires – they are destroying the fragile eco system of the Mournes, polluting our environment and risking the lives of people including the fire fighters who must deal with their handiwork.
“I would urge anyone with information about who is behind these fires to report what they know to the PSNI”.