Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 12:08 UK

Warning follows 900 NI wildfires

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Fires in County Armagh's Slieve Gullion Forest Park are being treated as arson

Firefighters in Northern Ireland have tackled nearly 900 wildland fires in the past six weeks.

The figure was revealed as it emerged overnight fires in County Armagh's Slieve Gullion Forest Park are being treated as arson.

The Fire and Rescue Service said its crews had attended 880 wildland fires from 1 April - 13 May.

Meanwhile, five fire crews battled a gorse fire in the village of Park, near Dungiven in County Londonderry.

The fire, which broke out on Tuesday night, was on a front nearly a mile and a half long.

Fire service station commander Mark Darryl said: "At first light this morning we despatched five fire crews from various parts of the north west to attack this fire which is now on about a mile to a mile and a half front.

"What we're trying to do is firstly to contain the fire from spreading to a plantation of newly developed trees and also to protect any other property in the area."

Alarm

In Slieve Gullion, the alarm was raised on Tuesday after four separate fires started in young trees in the park - each destroying about an acre of land.

Peter Craig from the Fire & Rescue Service says the fires are theatening lives

John Allen of the Fire and Rescue Service said the forest could have been destroyed in the blaze.

"We were very fortunate in that we received the call early and we had appliances at hand," he said.

"I would be certain in my own mind that these fires were started deliberately."

The Forestry Service raised the alarm at about 2130 BST on Tuesday.

The fire service urged people to be extra careful while out enjoying the countryside in the warm dry weather and to be vigilant for anyone starting fires deliberately.




SEE ALSO
Firefighters battle gorse blaze
19 Jul 06 |  Northern Ireland

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