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09/05/2008

Mournes Hit By Latest Blaze

A mountain-top blaze in Co Down overnight has been judged to have been started maliciously, while in Co Antrim, a senior fire officer has appealed for help in tracing an attacker who injured a Fire Service staff member when a brick was thrown at a service vehicle.

Meanwhile, a 32-year-old woman rescued by fire fighters from a house fire in rural Ahoghill last week has tragically now died in hospital.

Kara Connolly died four days after being rescued from the blaze, which broke out in the property on the village's Church Street.

A police spokesman said police were investigating the blaze – which is not believed to be suspicious – for the coroner.

The latest alert was last night, when an Irish Coast Guard helicopter and an RAF helicopter had to help fire fighters monitor a huge gorse fire on Slieve Donard, overlooking Newcastle.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Commander Area Commander Jim McCallum said that they believed the gorse fire had been started deliberately: "We had three crews during the night mostly to monitor the fire," he said.

"We are extremely reluctant to commit crews during the night-time essentially due to the danger of personnel falling into a gully or getting trapped by the fire."

However, he said that they would have moved in if there had been a threat to property.

Also this week, a blaze at the ancestral home of former US president Woodrow Wilson, a stone-built thatched cottage near Strabane, left it badly damaged yesterday afternoon when the roof of the house went up in smoke.

Around 15 firefighters fought the blaze at the popular visitor attraction at Dergalt, on Spout Road, with fire engines from Newtownstewart and Strabane.

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said when fire crews arrived the thatched roof was "well alight" but they managed to stop the fire spreading.

"The roof was destroyed but the structure of the stone building is still in place," he said.

Meanwhile, in Ballymena, a brick attack on a support staff member has been condemned and witnesses asked to come forward.

The staff member had been driving a Fire and Rescue Service van at 4pm on May 7 when he stopped at traffic lights at the Waveney Road-Galgorm Road junction - and was struck on the head by a brick. The brick was thrown through an open side window of the vehicle.

(BMcC)

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