Six firefighting units and crews are expected to scale the Morne Mountains this morning to tackle gorse fires.
Rews are dealing with fires over a two-mile front on three mountains in the area, including 40 acres at Spelga Dam and another around the Cock and Hen Mountains.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) confirmed the latest incidents began around 7pm on Tuesday evening.
While an inquiry into the fires in the Morne Mountains is pending, a senior fire service commander said recent incidents in Belfast over the past few days had been “premeditated” and “malicious” fires.
After an overnight observation round, Mark Smyth, NIFRS national wildfire chief and squad commander, said firefighting teams are meeting in the area to begin attempts to fight the blaze.
He told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster the latest assessment is that “quite a bit of damage” has been done to the environment and wildlife.
“We hope to send crews up the mountain to try and put out this fire if we can,” he said.
“There is no risk to life or property. The concern for us is for the environment and wildlife. This is very important to us as an organization.
“Last night at midnight the fire front was about two miles long. That’s quite a significant fire.
“At this point we have no idea [what caused the fire] this morning.
“We will focus on putting out the fire if we can.
“On some of our fires in the Belfast area, reports have come back from crews on the ground that it was a deliberate fire. So we think it’s some kind of arson.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is still present at Kilkeel Road, Spelga Dam. Three mountains caught fire. We ask the public to avoid this area.
— Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (@NIFRSOFFICIAL) March 23, 2022
“As I describe every fire is a deliberate fire, we have very few natural fires occurring in the wild in Northern Ireland.
“We believe some of them have been that type of fire in the last few days, which was intentional malicious fire. That’s all I can assume at this point.”
The latest fire follows several other incidents this week, with fires in the Mournes and in the Cavehill and Black Mountain areas of Belfast.
Two gorse fires this week have already been ruled premeditated – one in Cavehill on Monday evening and another near Rathfriland on Tuesday morning.
A NIFRS spokesman said the public should avoid the area around the Morne Mountains.
https://www.independent.ie/news/fire-crews-ascending-mourne-mountains-to-tackle-gorse-fires-41477826.html Firefighters climb the Morne Mountains to tackle gorse fires