AS WE approach the May bank holiday weekend, NI Water is reminding visitors to mountain areas, particularly the Mournes, that there is a real risk of wildfires.
The recent spell of dry weather has increased hazard warnings for wildfires.
Coupled with this the risk has increased due to strong easterly wind conditions and an increase in activities such as littering, use of disposable barbecues and burning of waste.
Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water explains further: “Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to our drinking water catchment areas.
"Many areas which might be prone to wildfires like the Mourne Mountains are also areas which provide our drinking water. While these places are great to visit and very picturesque, it’s important for visitors to remember these areas provide drinking water and so special care must be taken of them.”
Some Dos and Don’ts when in these areas during hot, dry weather:
1. Do not light fires in and around forests or open land;
2. Do not attempt to intervene or fight fires under any circumstances;
3. If you see a fire, gather all family/group members and move to a safe fuel-free location such as a car park, upwind of the fire;
4. Telephone the NI Fire and Rescue Service on 999 and report the fire and its location;
5. Evacuate if instructed to do so, and cooperate with all Emergency Service Instructions;
6. If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI immediately.
Rebecca continues: “A water catchment is where water is collected by the natural landscape into rivers, lakes and streams. NI Water control 24 drinking water catchments supplying water to all of Northern Ireland. NI Water always work hard to deal with the problem of wildfires and we can assure customers that tap water quality is unaffected and is of a very high quality.
"However, wildfires within these areas not only pose a terrible risk to all life but removes the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs which is treated to become our drinking water. These fires can also have a devastating impact on habitats and wildlife.”
*The public are reminded that deliberate setting of wildfires is a criminal offence and if you see anyone setting a fire you should call the PSNI immediately.
If you are in the countryside:
Leave no trace; take your rubbish with you
Never fly-tip waste material;
Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly;
Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
Avoid using open fires.