Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is warning of the extreme dangers and serious consequences of deliberate fire setting in the countryside and is also appealing to young people to help protect their local community, by acting responsibly.
NIFRS has been working hard to address the problem of gorse fires, however they still remain a community problem, traditionally spiking over the Easter holiday period, with NIFRS experiencing unprecedented levels of operational activity during this time in previous years. Similar trends also show a peak in the number of hoax calls and attacks on Firefighters over the Easter holidays.
Dale Ashford, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) said:“The number of gorse fires we have attended over the past number of years have decreased, however last year (2013/14) we still attended over 2,000 gorse fires, with a particular spike in operational activity last April, resulting in our Firefighters attending 387 gorse fires in the first 7 days of April 2013 alone.
“Dealing with these types of incidents puts not only Firefighters’ lives at risk but the lives of everyone in the local community and puts additional pressure on NIFRS resources. People need to realise that we simply cannot be in two places at once and fighting gorse fires mean that Fire Appliances and Firefighters are diverted from other potentially life threatening emergency incidents in the local community.
“While the majority of gorse fires that we attend are started deliberately they can also start unintentionally by thoughtless and careless behaviour. We would ask that people be vigilant when out and about during the Easter break for anyone starting fires deliberately and any suspicious behaviour should be reported to the police immediately.
“I am pleased to say that overall the number of attacks on our Firefighters and the number of hoax calls has reduced over the past few years but similarly to gorse fires we tend to see a spike in activity over the Easter break and I would appeal to the community, especially young people to act responsibly and thank them for their continued support.
“We want everyone to enjoy their Easter break but to be aware of the stark reality of their actions should they choose to start a deliberate fire, make hoax calls or attack our Firefighters. Remember, we may be the target but it’s you and your local community who are the victims.”