CONCERN has been expressed about a spate of recent fires at the old Downe Hospital site in Downpatrick.
South Down MLA Colin McGrath escribed the recent fires as “worrying” and said they underscored the need to redevelop the site — which has been vacant since 2009 — as a matter of priority.
Mr McGrath said dry grass at the Pound Lane site was set on fire on three separate occasions last week, with one of the blazes close to a telephone pole that supplied communications to a large population in the area.
Mr McGrath, who raised the alarm on Tuesday of last week after he spotted one of the fires on his way home from political talks at Stormont, said a number of tenders arrived to put out the blaze.
“This would be a worrying trend if fires are being set and other emergency calls have to be prioritised,” he said. “The smoke billowed over the neighbouring playing fields where children were at football practice and many scores of homes would have to have kept their windows shut. This action really impacted many in the Downpatrick area.
“At its base this is arson, vandalism and destruction of property,” he declared. “The diversion of emergency services from other calls could potentially be manslaughter. Whoever is setting these fires must reflect upon the danger they are putting our community in.
“The cost to the Fire Service and potential damage to phone lines could quickly escalate into tens of thousands of pounds.”
Mr McGrath added: “With every arson attack in the community there is the potential for much great consequences and I urge those doing this to stop.”