Northern Irish fire service believes Mourne Mountain blaze started deliberately

PSNI launch investigation into cause of fire which took three days to extinguish

A huge gorse fire which spread across the Mourne Mountains in Co Down. Photograph: Patrick Corrigan/PA Wire

The police in Northern Ireland have launched an investigation into the cause of a major gorse fire in the Mourne Mountains.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said it believes the blaze was started deliberately.

In a statement on Monday, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said it was working to establish the circumstances of the fire and appealed for anyone who was in the area and who may have information which could help their investigation to contact them.

“It is believed the fire may have started off the main walkway along the Bloody Bridge path, possibly late on Thursday night, April 22nd.


“In particular, we want to hear from the owner/occupants of a black/dark coloured saloon-type car that is understood to have been present in the Bloody Bridge car park when NIFRS arrived just after 1am on Friday morning as they may have vital information which could assist us,” the PSNI said.

Firefighters spent three days tackling the blaze in Co Down, which began late on Thursday or early on Friday morning and extended 3.5km over the mountains.

NIFRS said that at its height more than 100 firefighters, 12 fire appliances, three 4x4 vehicles, the Specialist Rescue Team and a Command Support Unit were all mobilised to help fight the huge wildfire, where they used beaters, jets and specialist vehicles to help extinguish the flames.

Coastguard helicopters were also used to give an aerial view of the fire, and more than 10 partner agencies offered support, including the Irish Coastguard.

The North's Chief Fire and Rescue Officer Michael Graham on Monday paid tribute to the firefighters' efforts, saying that describing it as challenging did not do justice to the effort they had put in.

“The pictures we’ve seen on social media have shown us how hard they have worked in intense conditions to extinguish this huge fire and prevent it spreading to human life or property.

“While I am proud of the work our people did, we are all saddened by the destruction this fire has caused to our natural environment,” he said.

In a statement on Monday the National Trust said it was "devastated to see the impact the fire has had on the fragile habitat of upper Slieve Donard.

“This Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been completely destroyed and will take years to recover,” the conservation charity said.

It said work now needed to be done to understand the full impact of the damage and how the landscape could be rebuilt, adding that there was an “urgent need for all agencies and bodies to work together with local communities to develop a long-term vision for the Mournes, looking at land use, visitor management, infrastructure management and coping with a changing climate.”

Anyone with information can contact the PSNI on 101 quoting reference 491 of 23/04/21.

A report can also be submitted online at or via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times