THERE’S been mounting anger at the number of gorse fires throughout North Antrim in the past couple of weeks, the vast majority believed to have been started deliberately.
The vast majority of the public are outraged that not only could someone deliberately target areas of outstanding natural beauty, but that they could sit back and watch a wide range of wildlife and plants being wiped out in the process.
Rabbits, young hares, sky larks, pheasants, snipes, frogs, in fact, any wild life could and very likely were destroyed by what many believe was the mindless acts of a few.
A thick cloud of smoke spread across the North Antrim coast at the weekend as fire crews fought to bring a gorse blaze at Cushleake mountain on the Cushendall Road.
Elsewhere, fires were reported on Knocklayde and at Knocksaughey, Ballintoy. In the last two weeks, firefighters have had to deal with more than one thousand gorse fires in Northern Ireland, 97 per cent of which are believed to have been started deliberately.
On Monday it was reported that the Cushleake blaze had been brought under control, but that firefighters were still dealing with an outbreak at Greenans Road was still being dealt with.
In total, 12 crews were deployed to the coastal area and firefighters were reported to hae been working virutally around the clock in a bid to bring the fires under control.
One firefighter said he was praying for rain to try and ease the situation.
Local councillor, Seamus Blaney, said he was greatly disappointed that someone could be so stupid as to deliberately target areas which tourists would be drawn to.
He encouraged anyone who had information about the cause of the fires to contact police.
“We always run the risk of fires during a dry spell, but I have no doubt that someone out there is deliberately setting fire to these areas and it’s only causing major problems,” Cllr. Blaney said.
The NIFRS Deputy Chief Fire officer, Chris Kerr, assured the public that additional resources would be made available where necessary and local firefighters have been roundly praised by the public for their commitment.
Should the outbreaks be down to arson, Mr. Craig issued a warning that not only firefighters could be put in peril, but that members of the public could also lose their life.
The message that if firefighters are dealing with this type of incident then life-threatening emergencies could run the risk of having less cover than necessary.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact 0845 600 8000 or 0800 555 111.