Council recognition for battling forest fires

Council recognition for battling forest fires

15 August 2018

THE Fire Service’s battling of recent forest fires in the district is to be recognised by Newry Mourne and Down Council.

The council is to write and thank both the fire fighters and the Irish Air Corps for their efforts following a council meeting on Monday evening when a motion calling for both organisations to be recognised was tabled by Slieve Croob councillor Andrew McMurray.

The local authority will also now outline its planned response to forest fire incidents as a result of the proposal after a number of fires were reported in the area of Tollymore Forest Park during an unusually hot July.

“I am lucky that I have a commute to work which encompasses both Tollymore and Donard forests as well as the White Plains,” said Cllr McMurray. 

“I watched at first hand the response from the Fire and Rescue Service throughout the week. Men and women who took the call to attend the hill in the early hours were still there as I was passing on my way to work. 

“They are much too bashful and humble a workforce to seek out praise, so I think it is only fit and proper to publicly acknowledge this district’s gratitude to them. 

“It is a reflection of the public’s gratitude to these men and women that it wasn’t long before there were Facebook appeals to run supplies to them up the hill. As well as plenty of complimentary ice creams, coffees and pints awaiting them back down the hill in Newcastle.”

As well as thanking the Irish Air Corps for their role in the operation, Cllr McMurray said there were plenty of “unseen helpers” that were also crucial such as the Mourne Heritage Trust and the Forest Service.

“The economic and environmental consequences of losing the forest would be dire, and longer lasting than this current season,” he said. “While the longer lasting environmental impact, such as the ping of so much salt water on to the white plains remains to be seen.

“Given the proximity that this fire was to the edges of Newcastle, as well as that we have our own stated objective to become the ‘outdoor capital of Ireland’, there is an impetus on this council to have a clear strategy on dealing and responding to such incidents.”

Cllr McMurray described the recent fires as a “definite near miss,” urging for more to be done protect the natural environment from future threats.

“Whether this was a deliberate act, or the product of thoughtless littering, we cannot risk the economic and environmental consequences of losing the forest,” he continued.

“Moving forward, I am delighted the council will now be examining its own protocol and policy relating to forest fires, assessing what and how it can act differently to deal with these kinds of incidents.”

Cllr Laura Devlin also praised the work of the emergency services in recent weeks.

“The very clear joined-up and cross border co-operation really saved lives on this occasion and on many more, and this cannot be underestimated,” she said. “The reaction from the local business community has to be recognised and praised. 

“Thank you to each and every business who contributed refreshments to our emergency services — this was greatly appreciated and recognised right across the north. True community spirit.”

Cllr Devlin added: “I also wish to pay tribute to the Mourne Heritage Trust who have worked tirelessly in tandem with the emergency services. Its contribution has been phenomenal, but often happens under the radar. The knowledge and expertise within the Trust on this subject matter is outstanding and recognised right across Europe. “

The Slieve Croob politician said she would also like to see further cooperation and collaborative  working with the Mourne Heritage Trust and the various agencies in the future.