In pictures: Firefighters continue to battle gorse blaze

Firefighters tackle a gorse fire beside the Knockagh Monument near Carrickfergus on Monday. Pic by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Firefighters tackle a gorse fire beside the Knockagh Monument near Carrickfergus on Monday. Pic by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Dozens of firefighters are still battling a huge gorse fire in Co Antrim - more than 13 hours after the blaze was initially reported.

Firefighters initially assessed the scene near Greenisland, but due to the inaccessible location and inadequate light, were forced to withdraw and return later to reassess the situation at first light.

Throughout the day fire crews from Carrickfergus, Glengormley, Ballyclare and Belfast have been involved in the operation, which has seen firefighters spraying the cliff face with a special foam in a bid to extinguish the blaze.

An NIFRS spokesperson said there was “no risk to property or life.”

She added that “the cause is likely to be deliberate however as the incident is ongoing it has yet to be determined.”

Former Alliance councillor for the Knockagh area, Wing Commander Noel Williams, said it looked like the fire had been started deliberately.

“It looked to me like there were three different sites on fire, so that tells its own story,” he said.

“If anyone has any information about how these fires started I would encourage them to go to the police.”

Last year (2017/18) NIFRS attended 2,072 gorse fires across Northern Ireland, representing a 27% increase from the previous year.

From 1 – 8 May 2017 firefighters tacked 511 gorse fires, of which 466 were started deliberately.

Mark Smyth, Group Commander and NIFRS Lead Officer for Wildfires said: “Deliberate fire setting in the countryside is still very much a significant issue for Northern Ireland.

“The current spell of dry, sunny weather is providing a tinderbox landscape with conditions ripe for gorse fires to take hold. We have already dealt with the first gorse fires of the year in the last number of weeks so we are appealing to the public, and young people in particular, to help us by acting responsibly.

“Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us. It means deploying firefighters and equipment to remote locations. This can be for a prolonged period of time with our crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control. These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.”