Huge blaze spreading through Northern Ireland's Mourne Mountains

More than 60 firefighters battle huge blaze spreading through gorse in Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains

  • The gorse fire in the Slieve Donard area has been going since Friday morning 
  • Pictures overnight showed the blaze on pitch-black mountains over Newcastle
  • Officials told people to avoid Glen River and Bloody Bridge River access points
  • Firefighters were withdrawn late Friday, but will return at dawn when its colder 

Firefighters are battling a huge gorse fire spreading across the Mourne Mountains, with to 60 firefighters and 12 appliances at the scene.

The fire in the Slieve Donard area overlooking Newcastle, County Down, has been ongoing since the early hours of Friday morning.

In a statement, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: ‘Firefighters are currently dealing with a large gorse fire in the Slieve Donard area of the Northern Mournes.

Pictured: A gorse fire spreads across the Mourne Mountains overlooking Newcastle, Co Down. Firefighters were battling a huge gorse fire spreading across the Mountains on Friday, with to 60 firefighters and 12 appliances at the scene

‘We would request that the public avoid the Glen River and Bloody Bridge River access points this weekend due to the ongoing incident and potential for further fires in the extremely dry conditions.

‘NIFRS would like to highlight the unsuitability for wild camping in these areas this weekend due to current fire conditions.

‘We would ask the public to exercise due care and vigilance in relation to fire safety if out in the countryside during this current dry spell.’

Firefighters have been at the scene since Friday morning, with the constant movement of the blaze throughout the day constantly challenging the fire fighting efforts of those on the ground. 

Pictures from the town overnight on Friday showed locals watching over the small County Down town at the foot of the pitch-black hills, with blaze spreading across them and smoke rising into the night’s sky.

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said Friday’s wildfire in the Mournes highlighted the need to develop an all-island strategy to address the matter.

‘With courageous fire crews tackling the blaze from early Friday morning there was a hope that the fire could be contained,’ he added.

‘However, with some light winds it unfortunately managed to spread down the eastern slope of Leganabruchan and eventually into Donard Forest in Newcastle.

Twelve fire appliances and around 60 firefighters have been at the scene in the Bloody Bridge area since the early hours of Friday

Pictured: A map showing the location of the fires in Northern Ireland

‘By the afternoon of Friday there were some 60 brave firefighters doing their best to maintain the blaze, with the smoke visible from as far away as Downpatrick.

‘I pay tribute to their bravery and determination. Sadly, this will not only have a devastating impact on the natural landscape but the local economy of Newcastle that relies so heavily on the tourist product we associate with the Mournes.

‘Having met with the NIFRS it is clear that they are doing everything they can to combat these blazes.

Pictured: Locals watch on over Newcastle, County Down as the blaze spreads across the mountains behind the town, in the late hours of Friday, April 23

‘However, the issue of gorse and wildfires is something that affects our entire island and our response to it cannot just be a reaction to every outbreak of fire but a measured response that attempts to understand why these fires are happening so often and ultimately to prevent them.

‘That over the last four years we have had three years with continuous fires tells me we need to act now for the health and wellbeing of all our people.’ 

McGrath said that most firefighters were withdrawn for safety reasons over night, but that they would be back in the early hours of the morning when its cooler.  

Pictures from the town overnight on Friday showed locals watching over the small County Down town at the foot of the pitch-black hills, with blaze spreading across them and smoke rising into the night’s sky

Local residents told Belfast Live they had never seen such fires on the mountain, and feared the damage that the blaze could have done to the local wildlife. 

‘We have never seen it as bad at this.. it’s frightening the damage that is being done. The ground nesting birds wildlife will be suffering so badly,’ one person told the news outlet.

‘We don’t know what started it but it’s been dry recently and we need rain to help. It is so upsetting to see it so bad even from a distance we can see the actual flames.’ 

DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots tweeted on Friday that it was ‘sickening that one human can cause so much damage to our environment and biodiversity in the beautiful Mournes. Thank you so much to the NIFRS and first responders.’

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