Fire at forest in Co Down is likely to have been started deliberately - police
Firefighters faced a mile long firefront as caravan park and homes evacuated
The Northern Ireland Fire Service managed to bring a blaze at Tollymore Forest in Co Down under control on Monday morning.
The fire which broke out after 8 pm on Easter Sunday night resulted in several families being evacuated from Bonny’s caravan park close to the blaze. A number of local residents were also evacuated.
Many of those evacuated stayed overnight at the leisure centre on the promenade in the nearby town of Newcastle.
On Monday morning those evacuated were allowed return to the caravan park and their homes.
The fire service and the PSNI are now trying to determine what caused the fire but say they believe it was started deliberately.
Detective Chief Inspector Will Tate said: “The fire caused widespread damage and led to a number of evacuations, including from a nearby caravan park. Our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service have now determined that it is likely that the fire was started deliberately and I am appealing to people to assist us in our investigation. Anyone with information or who may have seen something that could be useful to investigators, please contact us on 101.”
It took 55 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, said fire service group commander Dermot McPolland on Monday.
On Monday afternoon one fire crew remained at the scene to deal with some final hotspots, said Mr McPolland.
He explained that the fire service got the call-out at 8.30 pm on Sunday and that it took into Monday morning to get the fire under control.
Mr McPolland explained that it was a challenging fire and that conditions were testing for his officers.
“At one stage we had a mile of a firefront while winds also were a problem for us as they were feeding the fire. It was quite intensive and punishing conditions for our crews with the heat and the terrain,” he added.
There were no reports of any injuries.
Sinn Féin MP for South Down Chris Hazzard praised the efforts of firefighters in bringing the blaze under control.
“Thankfully no one was injured,” he said. “Efforts will now be underway to determine the cause of the blaze and I’d like to remind everyone to behave responsibly while using the forest park in order to protect the environment and everyone’s safety,” added Mr Hazzard.
Local Sinn Féin councillor Willie Clarke said he was with those who were evacuated to Newcastle Leisure Centre. “It was clearly a frightening experience for many of them,” he said.
“I’d like to commend the staff at the leisure centre for their excellent work in opening up the facilities, providing a welcome and comforting those who were evacuated,” he said.