Arsonists blamed for spike in grass and gorse fires across Craigavon

NI Fire and Rescue Service attends another fire in Craigavon
NI Fire and Rescue Service attends another fire in Craigavon

Arsonists have been blamed for a spike in gorse and grass fires in Craigavon, leaving fire crews working ‘flat out’.

SDLP representative Thomas Larkham said many of the fires, including recent ones at the Brownlow Rescource Centre, had been started deliberately.

The Craigavon man said fire crews said they had no longer finished getting one fire out than they were tasked to another close by.

“I have been told that many of these fires are started deliberately. This is extremely dangerous. The grass is crisp.

Speaking about the fire at the Resource Centre, he said: “This could have been so much worse had firefighters not intervened when they did.

“I am urging those responsible to stop and think of the consequences of their actions.

Not only are they putting their own lives and the lives of others in immediate danger, they are also tying up crucial emergency resources that may be needed else where.

“This is total madness and must stop now,” he said.

Sinn Féin Cllr Fergal Lennon also called on those lighting grass fires across the Craigavon area to cease immediately.

He said: “A number of grass fires have been lit around Ardowen and Rathmore.

“One almost set the Resource Centre beside Brownlow Library on fire.

“Those responsible should cease immediately before lives are lost and property is destroyed.”

Meanwhile the NI Fire and Rescue Service has issued a reminder to the public to act responsibly and heed fire safety advice to prevent gorse fires from starting.

NIFRS Wildfire Lead, Group Commander, Mark Smyth said: “The current spell of dry, sunny weather is providing a tinderbox landscape with conditions ripe for gorse fires to take hold.

“Often the dry conditions, like we have seen in recent weeks, can lead to an increase in the number of gorse fires we attend.

“Whilst many of these are started deliberately gorse fires can also be caused accidentally by something as simple as throwing a cigarette from a car window, leaving a glass bottle on the ground or not extinguishing a barbecue properly,” he said. “A seemingly innocent mistake could well cause a severe gorse fire that destroys acres of countryside and ties up firefighting resources for prolonged periods.

“The Fire & Rescue Service doesn’t want your summer to be affected by fire or tragedy.”

Last year (2017/18) NIFRS attended 2,072 gorse fires across Northern Ireland, representing a 27% increase from the previous year. Since the 1st April 2018 NIFRS has responded to 934 gorse fire incidents