‘Gorse fires are putting lives at risk’

A firefighter tackles the gorse fire at Valley Park at the rear of the Tesco superstore at Abbey Retail Park. INNT 19-517CON
A firefighter tackles the gorse fire at Valley Park at the rear of the Tesco superstore at Abbey Retail Park. INNT 19-517CON

THE Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has warned people to think about the consequences of deliberate fire setting after crews from Glengormley Station were called out twice in less than an hour on Monday (May 6) to deal with gorse fires.

Shortly after 5pm firefighters were tasked to tackle a gorse fire at Carnmoney Hill. And just 50 minutes later they were called out again, this time to tackle six areas of gorse on fire on a section of land bordering the Valley Park and the rear of the Tesco superstore at Abbey Retail Park. It’s thought that both fires were started deliberately.

Following Monday’s incidents, and an upsurge in gorse fire related call-outs in recent weeks, a senior Fire Officer has appealed for members of the public, especially young people, to be aware of the very serious consequences that deliberate fire setting can have on the whole community.

Dale Ashford, NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer, said: “As the drier weather takes hold, I’m asking the public a simple question - where do you want your Fire and Rescue Service over the coming months? In remote areas tackling deliberately set fires for hours on end - potentially leaving your community at risk, or at your local fire station ready to deal with life threatening emergencies?

“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.”

He added: “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.

“While the majority of gorse fires that we attend are started deliberately they can also start unintentionally by thoughtless and careless behaviour. Both deliberate and accidental fires can cost lives and we recommend that the public heed our fire safety advice to protect themselves and our countryside”