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Sinn Féin Assembly Member shocked at Slieve Donard gorse fire

9 May, 2008

Sinn Féin Assembly Member Willie Clarke had described as 'horrendous' the overnight gorse fire on Slieve Donard that is believed to have been started deliberately.

Cllr Clarke said: "Last night's fire stretched for miles and lit up the night sky overlooking Newcastle such was its intensity. The cost of dealing with such emergencies runs into thousands of pounds and places the safety of Fire Service personnel at risk. These types of malicious arson attacks are tying down essential emergency services that may be needed elsewhere and the damage caused to local habitats and wildlife could be long term and in places irreparable.

"Last night's fire could have resulted in the loss of life and it was fortunate that there was a spell of rain which helped dampen the blaze. The person responsibility for causing this fire needs to be caught and jailed for what was a despicable act of environmental vandalism.

"From November 2006, to the end of April 2007, there were some 2,450 gorse fires responded to by the Fire Service, many of them started in the Mournes. The total cost of tackling these fires was £503, 971 including approximately £300,000 of additional expenditure.

"Gorse fires cost a huge amount of money to deal with and are therefore a significant drain on essential resources. However, the real cost of Gorse Fires cannot be assessed in monetary terms alone as the damage to our environment, local habitats and wildlife is unquantifiable and could have a long term impact on our countryside." Críoch /ENDS

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