‘Don’t burn the place down warning’ after Carrick dams fires

Last month's gorse fire at Knockagh.
Last month's gorse fire at Knockagh.

Police have issued a warning over reports of youths lighting fires in the vicinity of dams in Carrickfergus.

Responding to yesterday’s incidents, PSNI Inspector Simpson said: “It hasn’t rained in weeks and our firefighters have enough to contend with, what with the number of gorse fires and the up coming 11th July.

“Have a word with yourself and don’t burn the place down.”

Last month, Northern Ireland and Fire Rescue Service spent several days dealing with a gorse fire at Knockagh escarpment, above Greenisland, which at the time was thought to have been started deliberately.

Meanwhile, as the dry weather continues, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) is advising visitors to rural areas as well as residents to be vigilant for wildfires.

In a statement, DAERA said: “With no change in the current warm and dry weather for the foreseeable future, there remains a very high risk of wildfire across Northern Ireland. The NI Fire and Rescue Service is reporting a sharp increase in the number of gorse fires. Fires can take hold and spread quickly on dry ground, with potentially devastating consequences.

“Given the risk, those living and working in rural communities, particularly in isolated areas, are asked to remain vigilant. Also, please check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours and, of course, always follow the advice and instructions of the NI Fire and Rescue Service.

“Under the current conditions, any ignition source in hazardous fuels may give rise to wildfire development. Such a fire can spread very quickly, especially in areas with dead grasses, gorse, forestry and heather. Large areas can become engulfed in a very short period of time and may be hazardous to human life, property and wildlife.

“Members of the public and land managers should refrain from the use of open fires at this time and ensure that other potential ignition sources are carefully minded (or guarded) in order not to cause grass or gorse fires during this period of increased fire risk.”

The department also advises at this point that all outdoor use of fires, barbecues and other open ignition sources be avoided on forest lands and in other high risk areas until further notice.

“Extra caution is also advised with respect to hay making and the use of machinery and other agricultural activity that may also present a risk of fire in dry vegetation on cultivated land in the current conditions. Operators of such equipment should ensure that the machinery is well maintained and that any heat insulation is in place, is intact and maintained to help reduce the risk of fire from exhausts or other exposed hot engine parts which may lead to ignition of the surrounding vegetation in these very dry conditions.

“Wildfires are not natural, they are almost always started by humans either deliberately or through carelessness. They put lives at risk, destroy our surroundings and the wildlife in them, and are a real cost to society.”