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Slieve Donard

Firefighters escalate operations in Mourne Mountains as gorse blaze continues to rage

The fire has been ongoing since the early hours of Friday morning.

FIREFIGHTERS ARE ESCALATING operations in the Mourne Mountains as a huge gorse fire continues to spread.

The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said this morning that a large number of fire fighting resources will attend the Slieve Donard area of the Northern Mournes to help tackle the blaze.

The fire has been ongoing since the early hours of Friday morning.

The fire service asked members of the public not to gather in the area and requested that walkers avoid the Newcastle side of Slieve Donard.

People were instructed to avoid the Glen River and Bloody Bridge River access points throughout the weekend due to the ongoing incident and the potential for further fires in the extremely dry conditions.

The fire service added that the threat posed by the blazes makes wild camping unsuitable in the area.

“We would ask the public to exercise due care and vigilance in relation to fire safety if out in the countryside during this current dry spell,” the fire service said.

A Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) spokesperson said the operation to tackle the fire is expected to be ongoing across Saturday.

“Police would ask that all members of the public avoid the Newcastle area, in particular Trassey Road, Bloody Bridge, Tollymore Forest Park and Donard Carpark to ensure NIFRS have full accessibility to these areas,” they said.

“We understand many people will have made plans to walk the Mournes today but we would ask that you reschedule as you will be turned away upon arrival.”

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said there had been hope the blaze could be contained on Friday, however light winds had spread the flames.

“By the afternoon of Friday there were some 60 brave firefighters doing their best to maintain the blaze, with the smoke visible from as far away as Downpatrick,” he said.

“I pay tribute to their bravery and determination. Sadly, this will not only have a devastating impact on the natural landscape but the local economy of Newcastle that relies so heavily on the tourist product we associate with the Mournes.”

With reporting by Press Association.

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