The Irish Air Corps is supporting the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) with its operational response to an extensive gorse fire in Glenariff, Co. Antrim.

Over 80 firefighters and 14 appliances continue to battle the blaze which currently has a fire front of 1km, after the NIFRS declared a “major incident” yesterday (Wednesday, June 14).

The gorse fire in Glenariff is expected to continue for “another 24 to 48 hours”, according to the deputy chief fire and rescue officer at the NIFRS, Paul Harper.

“The support of our colleagues from the Irish Air Corps is most welcomed as firefighters from right across Northern Ireland continue to work in punishing conditions to bring this blaze under control.

“Deploying water directly onto the fire from the air will greatly enhance our firefighting operations.

“Due to the deep seated nature of the fire and the sheer size and scale, a formal request was made for a specialist aerial resource,” the deputy chief fire and rescue officer said.

Across NI, 130 firefighters have been dispatched to battle separate gorse fires in Clogher, Co. Tyrone and Glenariff, Co. Antrim, west Belfast and the Lagmore area.

Gorse fires

Due to the long dry period the fires have started, and gorse plants in particular are susceptible to fires as they contain flammable oils and burn easily in dry, hot weather.

Speaking after the “major incident” was declared and appealing for the public’s support during this “critical” time, NIFRS assistant chief fire and rescue officer, Aidan Jennings said:

“Please avoid the areas where incidents are ongoing. Please act safely, be responsible and be vigilant when it comes to enjoying the countryside and good weather […] over the coming days.

“Please pay heed to our safety advice as conditions are ripe for more gorse fires to take hold. These types of incidents are extremely resource intensive and challenging for our firefighters and we need your support,” Jennings said.

NIFRS is reminding everyone of the following safety advice:

  • Extinguish cigarettes and other smoking materials properly;
  • Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
  • Only use barbecues in designated and safe areas and never leave them unattended;
  • Keep children and ball games away from barbecues;
  • Ensure that barbecues are fully extinguished and cold before disposing of their contents;
  • Avoid using open fires in the countryside;
  • Do not leave bottles or glass in woodlands. Sunlight shining through glass can start a fire. Take them home or put them in a waste or recycling bin;
  • If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the Fire and Rescue Service; Don’t attempt to tackle fires that will take more than a bucket of water to put out;
  • Leave the area as soon as possible;
  • Report any suspicious behaviour to the police;