16/03/2010

Appeal Over Arson Attacks

Whitehead was hit overnight by a serious arson attack.

Families were forced to flee nine homes as 50 firefighters tackled the gorse blaze in the Co Antrim seaside town.

The fire was started deliberately in Whitehead close to Marine Parade and was still burning. early this morning as a police investigation gets under way.

Nine fire appliances helped tackle it and houses at Quay Lane were evacuated. Some were just 35 metres from the fire.

As crews tackled the blaze, they picked up thermal imaging pictures of people setting even more fires alight.

Earlier this week, such arsonists were being warned of the consequences of their acts.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has attended an increasing number of gorse fires and was appealing to the public not to deliberately start these fires as they have very serious and unpredictable consequences.

Peter Craig, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) explained: "NIFRS has attended over 300 gorse fires across Northern Ireland.
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"Some of the fires started have been in locations difficult for fire crews to access, for example, on steep edges of the mountain side, but where crews can access gorse fires we will attend these calls to put the fires out," he said.

"I would appeal to those responsible not to deliberately start fires as they pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.

"They place extra strain on NIFRS resources and may mean that in a life threatening emergency, resources from further afield may have to respond as we cannot be in two places at once.

"This exposes everyone to an additional and often unnecessary risk."

Meanwhile, last night's outbreak was still being tackled over the course of this morning with tackling the fire being described as extremely hazardous because of the rough terrain where the fire was burning, close to the main Larne to Belfast railway line.

The main road from Carrickfergus to Whitehead and the railway line were both closed as fire crews tackled the flames.

The latest news is that while people have now returned to their homes, on Tuesday morning, firefighters continued to tackle the outbreak.

(BMcC/GK)

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