Gorse fires put historic heritage site in jeopardy

April 20, 2010

By Brónagh Murphy

It took the crews of six fire appliances more than four hours to extinguish a massive fire which had engulfed acres of gorse at Anamar Bog, close to Cullyhanna, on Wednesday.

Crews from Lisburn, Warrenpoint, Newry, Keady and Newtownhamilton joined the local Crossmaglen Fire and Rescue Service personnel in the battle to contain the blaze which had spread across four acres.

The fire, which is believed was started deliberately, took hold close to Anamar Court Cairn – a prehistoric burial mound of important archaeological significance – and, at one stage, posed significant threat to the historic site.

Dozens of fire personnel used shovels and water packs to manually extinguish the numerous fires as the affected area was too far from the road to allow vehicular access.

The NIFRS mobile control unit – fitted with computers and cameras – was also on the site to  monitor the intensity and direction of the fires.

There was no immediate risk to property but the fires caused significant destruction to the environment and wildlife habitats in the bogland and nearby forest.

On Saturday fire crews were called out again to tackle a gorse fire on Carrive Mountain at Silverbridge, while the crews of thirteen fire appliances battled a massive fire in Tollymore Forest Park in Co. Down.

Communities exposed as firefighters tackle gorse fires: NIFRS

The Fire and Rescue Service has been stretched to the limit in recent weeks tackling hundreds of gorse fires, which have coincided with the dry, warm weather conditions.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has warned that local communities could be left exposed as crews are potentially diverted away from other emergencies to tackle these fires, many of which are started deliberately.

Peter Craig, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, appealed to the public to take care to avoid accidentally starting a blaze.

“Putting out these gorse fires, regardless of their size and location, requires both firefighters and equipment at the scene to deal with the fire and this can put extra pressure on NIFRS resources, particularly when there are multiple gorse fires happening,” he said.

Mr Craig pointed out that many of the fires were in remote areas difficult to access and they also exposed firefighters to unnecessary danger.

“While the majority of gorse fires we have attended in recent years have been started deliberately, they can also start accidentally through carelessness.  We would appeal to the public to take extra care when out and about in the countryside and follow our fire safety advice.”