‘Well-rehearsed’ contingency plans in place in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service experienced a significant increase in operational activity in the past week due to the exceptional hot weather and large number of gorse fires.

Early in the week, the fire service dealt with 676 gorse fires while the number of incidents rose by 8%. By Midweek, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) saw a 34% increase in calls, making it one of the busiest days for the service.

Northern Ireland’s Regional Fire Control Centre dealt with almost 3,000 calls.  There was a 45% increase in calls received on Wednesday 4th July, compared to Wednesday 27th, the previous week. NIFRS Control Centre mobilised crews to 1,456 incidents.

NIFRS’s Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Alan Walmsley said ‘contingency arrangements are currently in place to monitor and maintain emergency cover across Northern Ireland’. “All necessary operational personnel from across the organisation are available to deal with the demands of the current conditions.  We have additional appliances and crews on standby for deployment as and when required. Our well-rehearsed contingency arrangements are currently in place with our Command Room operational in order to monitor and maintain emergency cover across Northern Ireland.”

ACFRO Walmsley thanked firefighters who have worked under intense heat and extremely hazardous and challenging conditions to bring the recent gorse fires under control and he also thanked personnel and support staff in the Regional Control Centre who have also played a critical role in ensuring the effective utilisation of resources.

NIFRS Firefighters gorse fires
Photo: (Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service)

Retained firefighters are ‘on-call’ and respond to incidents when they are alerted. ACFRO Walmsley acknowledged and thanked employers of Retained Firefighters who release staff to enable them to respond to calls. “Our Retained Firefighters have responded to a higher number of calls over the period.  We are grateful to the many employers of Retained Firefighters across Northern Ireland who have released staff to enable them to play their vital role in protecting communities – your co-operation is a critical factor in our ability to keep people safe.”

“Whilst we have put contingency measures in place we are appealing to the public to help support us to reduce the number of fires and related incidents. Under the current hot weather conditions gorse fires can rapidly spread and can be difficult to extinguish due to their often-remote location. Gorse fires can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment, as well as placing extra strain on NIFRS resources” he said.

Communities are being urged to remain vigilant when in the countryside and they are advised not to discard cigarettes or leave rubbish lying around. People are asked not to leave glass bottles on the ground and ensure barbecues are properly extinguished. If a person sees a fire, they should report it immediately to the Fire & Rescue Service. NIFRS said people must not attempt to tackle fires and to leave the area as soon as possible. If anyone has any information in relation to fire setting, they are urged to contact the PSNI.

NIFRS Gorse Fire advice

Additional advice and guidelines from Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service:

  • Do not make deliberate hoax calls – hoax calls put additional pressure on our Regional Control Centre personnel who answer 999 calls and mobilise fire crews and appliances. Not only is it a waste of resources but it means that the closest fire appliance may not be available in the event of a real emergency. It could be someone from your family or one of your friends who need the help of Firefighters in a real emergency. Remember that calls from landlines and mobile phones are easily traceable and the person who owns the phone can be held responsible. NIFRS reports hoax callers to PSNI.
  • Do not tamper with fire hydrants – they are a main source of high pressure water which we use to supplement our own water supplies. Tampering with or vandalising fire hydrants reduces water pressure and may impact on our ability to respond to a fire.
  • We encourage business owners to ensure that automatic fire alarms are maintained, checked and serviced regularly to reduce the number of unwanted fire signals and prevent an additional strain on our resources.
  • Mirrors, glass ornaments and other items that reflect light can potentially start fires in the home – please ensure that they are kept away from windows and out of direct sunlight.
  • Our number one priority is to keep the public and Firefighters safe whilst we deal with these challenging conditions.