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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Fire Service crews tackle wildfires in Mournes

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has appealed to the public to not light fires in the countryside after crews have been tackling a number of blazes in the area of the Mourne Mountains. A NIFRS spokesperson commented:

“Throughout today (Wednesday 23 March) Firefighters have responded to a number of wildfires, including two significant ones in the Mourne Mountains.

“At the height of both of these incidents 6 Appliances and over 30 personnel were in attendance at each incident.

“Our Firefighters have not only worked really hard when responding to these incidents but have also continued to provide cover and respond to incidents across the wider Mournes area.

“These incidents do put an additional strain on our resources and therefore we are asking for the public to support us by not starting fires in the countryside.”

NI Water has also issued a statement this afternoon expressing concerns that the three fires burning across the Mournes are causing severe damage to the natural environment of the area.

The warning comes as firefighters continue to tackle significant blazes on separate mountains and the public is urged to stay away.

Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to our drinking water supply.

Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water explains why these nature landscapes must be protected:

“A water catchment is where water is collected by the natural landscape into rivers, lakes and streams. NI Water control 24 drinking water catchments supplying water to all of Northern Ireland. While we are working hard to deal with the problem of wildfires, we can assure customers that tap water quality is unaffected and is of a very high quality.

“However, wildfires within these catchments not only pose a terrible risk to all life but can remove the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs, from where water is abstracted for treatment to be drinking water.

“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw (untreated) water, with sediment accumulates in streams, lakes and reservoirs. This makes raw water especially difficult and more expensive to treat at our facilities to the stringent standards required by the Drinking Water Regulations.

“A significant amount of other work by our water supply colleagues also has to be undertaken at the treatment works to ensure excellent quality drinking water during these times. Extra water samples have to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas need isolated, and other remedial measures must be taken like blocking streams to protect reservoirs.”

The public are reminded that deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the PSNI immediately.

If you see a fire:

  • Report it immediately to the NI Fire & Rescue Service;

  • Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;

  • Leave the area as soon as possible;

  • If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.

If you are in the countryside:

· Leave no trace; take your rubbish with you

  • Never fly-tip waste material;

  • Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly;

  • Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;

  • Avoid using open fires;

  • Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

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