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Mourne mountain fire: Huge “deeply distressing” blaze devastates beauty spot

A major blaze continues to tear through the Mourne Mountains for a second day, leaving a trail of destruction at the Northern Ireland beauty spot.

Firefighters are stepping up efforts to tackle a major gorse fire as onlookers watch on in horror.

Officers have urged people to stay away from the area as fire crews battle the blaze which started in Slieve Donard in the early hours of Friday morning.

Dramatic images of the Co Down peak ablaze have sparked concern, with First Minister Arlene Foster tweeting: “This is devastating and tragic. The impact on wildlife and flora is unimaginable. Full support to those battling the flames.”

Up to 60 firefighters and 12 appliances are battling the blaze.

Horrifying mages show the gorse fire as it spreads across the Mourne Mountains in Co Down
A huge gorse fire is spreading across the Mourne Mountains in Co Down

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis described the scenes as “deeply distressing” at one of the region’s most beautiful landmarks and paid tribute to the fire fighters at the scene.

On Saturday morning the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said the are escalating their operations in the Mournes, and described a “large number of resources” in attendance.

The NIFRS has urged the public not to gather in the area, and told walkers to avoid the Newcastle side of Slieve Donard.

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

The fire began in the early hours of Friday morning
The fire in the Slieve Donard area has been ongoing since the early hours of Friday morning

Clouds of smoke continue to rise from the mountain peaks near Newcastle, Northern Ireland
Up to 60 firefighters and 12 appliances are battling the blaze

They said: “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.

“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.”

Billowing smoke can be seen for miles
Arlene Foster described the incident as “devastating and tragic” on Twitter

The fire will have a devastating impact on wildlife and flora
The First Minister said the impact on wildlife and flora is “unimaginable”

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.”



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