The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have been visiting the Mourne Mountains to assess the damage caused by recent wildfires.
Between the March 1 and April 13, 2022, there were 45 Mournes wildfires which caused damage to an estimated 720ha of land, mostly within the Eastern and Western Mournes which are both designated Areas of Special Scientific Interest (ASSI).
It was found that the Western Mournes ASSI was particularly damaged, with approximately 546ha of land burn in the Spelga Dam area alone.
It is also hoped that these site visits will also determine the cause and origin of a number of the recent fires, after which action can be taken.
“We hope to use these site visits with colleagues from NIFRS and DAERA to determine the cause and origin of a number of the recent fires and take the necessary follow up action,” said Norman Haslett, Superintendent, District Commander, PSNI.
“The impact of uncontrolled wildfires on habitats in Northern Ireland is of significant concern,” said Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Edwin Poots.
“Given the large scale damage that uncontrolled wildfires can cause, it is essential to raise awareness of the issue.
“As we approach the summer season, with dryer weather and longer evenings, more of us will be venturing outdoors so I’d urge everyone to heed our advice to help protect themselves and our environment from wildfires.”
DAERA has issued the following advice for people using the countryside:
- Avoid using open fires in the countryside;
- Only use barbecues in designated areas and never leave them unattended;
- Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents;
- Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly;
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows; and
- Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.
And, if you see a fire, DAERA advises to report it immediately to the Fire and Rescue Service and leave the area as soon as possible. Do not, it said, attempt to put it out yourself.
And, it said if you see somebody setting fire, report it immediately to the PSNI and/or Fire and Rescue Service.
“Wildfires are illegal and the deliberate malicious setting of wildfires is a criminal offence,” said Superintendent Haslett.