Public being urged to heed fire safety advice

Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye News''Saturday 18th April 2015 -  Gorse Fires on Black Mountain ''Pictured is Firefighters dealing with a gorse fire at the edge of a cliff on the Black Mountain in west Belfast''Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye News''Added by AK'19-04-15
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye News''Saturday 18th April 2015 - Gorse Fires on Black Mountain ''Pictured is Firefighters dealing with a gorse fire at the edge of a cliff on the Black Mountain in west Belfast''Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye News''Added by AK'19-04-15

The Fire & Rescue Service is urging people in Mid Ulster to heed fire safety advice following last week’s gorse fire on the Glenshane Pass.

Firefighters including those from Cookstown, Magherafelt and Maghera worked to contain the blaze which broke out on Wednesday morning.

The cause is believed to have been human error, but tackling the fire kept crews busy for three days.

NIFRS Wildfire Lead, Group Commander, Mark Smyth said: “The current spell of dry, sunny weather is providing a tinderbox landscape with conditions ripe for gorse fires to take hold. Often the dry conditions, like we have seen in recent weeks, can lead to an increase in the number of gorse fires we attend.

“Whilst many of these are started deliberately gorse fires can also be caused accidentally by something as simple as throwing a cigarette from a car window, leaving a glass bottle on the ground or not extinguishing a barbecue properly.

“A seemingly innocent mistake could well cause a severe gorse fire that destroys acres of countryside and ties up firefighting resources for prolonged periods.”

A helicopter and a specialist support command unit were called in to help fight the Glenshane fire which could be seen for miles around.

Mr Smith added: “Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us. It means deploying firefighters and equipment to remote locations. This can be for a prolonged period of time with our crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control. These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.

“It’s not just the larger fires on hillsides and mountains that impact upon resources, the smaller fires involving grass and bushes also need to be dealt with quickly as they have the potential to spread and develop into bigger fires. Attending such incidents puts additional pressure on our people and our resources.”