Wildfire warning for walkers in Mournes

Peter Bayne

Reporter:

Peter Bayne

Email:

peter.bayne@newrydemocrat.com

NI Water would like to warn any adventurous walkers who plan a trip to the countryside and all those planning to walk in the Mournes , to be very wary of wildfire risk.

There is a greater risk of wildfires at this time of year mainly due to easterly wind conditions, high temperatures, dry weather and the burning of waste, littering and dumping of waste materials.

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 supply. Many areas which might be prone to wildfires like the Mourne Mountains are also unfortunately subject to fly-tipping which can easily trigger wildfires. While these places may well be insta-worthy, it is important to remember they do an important job for all of us by providing drinking water to much of our country and so they must be respected.

“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. While we are working hard to deal with the problem of wildfires, we can assure customers that tap water quality is unaffected and is of a very high quality.

“However, wildfires within these catchments not only pose a terrible risk to all life but can remove the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs, from where water is abstracted for treatment to be drinking water.

“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw (untreated) water, with sediment accumulates in streams, lakes and reservoirs. This makes raw water especially difficult and more expensive to treat at our facilities to the stringent standards required by the Drinking Water Regulations. A significant amount of other work by our water supply colleagues also has to be undertaken at the treatment works to ensure excellent quality drinking water during these times. Extra water samples have to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas need isolated, and other remedial measures must be taken like blocking streams to protect reservoirs.

*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 see a fire:

Report it immediately to the NI Fire & Rescue Service;

Do not attempt to tackle fires that cannot be put out with a bucket of water;

Leave the area as soon as possible;

If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI.

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;

Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

ENDS

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