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Arson Fires Sweep Northern Ireland over Bank Holiday

Bush FireNorthern Ireland has been bombarded with arson over the last 2 weeks of bank holidays. This has left firefighters struggling against over 1,100 brush fires – 97% of which are said to have been arson. Due to the fires, the Mourne Mountains, which are one of the country’s most impressive landscapes, is off-limits to tourists. This is because the flames, which are reaching 40-foot in height, have overwhelmed the region. The series of deliberately set fires comes at a time of warm weather and just as the biggest tourist season is kicking off.

Over the course of these last 2 weeks, hundreds of acres of land have been destroyed, while livestock and homes have been threatened by flames burning for much of the weekends. On Sunday, firefighters had 101 calls within a period of 10 hours, according to reports. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) is said to have been battling up to 140 of these arson fires every day. These have mostly been set ablaze in gorse, or thorny bush.

Police have revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that a man was reported to have been in the Mourne Mountains standing near one of the area’s worst gorse fires in years with a petrol can around 8pm on Saturday. There are also reports of 2 teenagers lighting fires around 7pm on Slievegullion Mountain. There was a fire on Friday around 5pm on the Munie road, which is believed to have been arson as well.

Philip Martin, the fire service group commander, said that crew were still responding in a highly professional manner and working long hours in grueling conditions. They are very proud of the efforts they have made in protecting life and property across the country. He assured the public that they have more resources available to them to support their operational response.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary White says that the thought that people could be deliberately causing this destruction is hard to comprehend. They are putting livestock in danger, destroying wildlife habitats and threatening the lives of residents, whose homes have to be evacuated and some destroyed. It may seem fun and a little gutsy to set some gorse on fire, but a small fire can quickly get out of control change direction and spread in the current weather conditions, he added.

The National Trust, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to preserving the environment, says gorse fires in the Mourne Mountains will cause significant damage to wildlife, flora, biodiversity and fauna. However, it will also effect tourism, which will have a massive impact.

Northern Ireland Assembly deputy speaker Jim Wells said there is no doubt that one of the biggest fires sweeping the mountains was deliberately started. He described the scene as total despair and having decimated wildlife, leaving the area a charred mess. People have been killed, while others have narrowly escaped, and anyone caught setting a gorse fire should be imprisoned, he added.



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