Heatwaves and Gorse fires; Why is Northern Ireland so unprepared?

I am sure that it is now international knowledge that Ireland and the UK have been experiencing a heatwave for the past week or so. Two nations full of complainers and over-exaggerators when it comes to anything involving the weather. A few months ago, we were frozen over, and we had to close schools and businesses and I even had to wear my hiking boots to make it over my road a few times. But now that temperatures have been flying steady above 20 degrees the whole island of Ireland has been put on a hosepipe ban. Oh yes, you heard that right, an island that experiences rain for at least 10 months of the year is worried about water shortages and pollution.

Sadly with this heatwave comes the threat of gorse wildfires across Northern Ireland, in which approximately 600 were reported in the last week. This issue is not only tragic to the environment but deeply threatens livestock, farmland, homeowners and the economy. The thought of any of these fires being purposely set is appalling as brave members of our Fire and Rescue Service continue to put their lives in danger to combat the flames. I was driving along the Mourne Coastal Route during a beautiful sunny evening and suddenly the road in front of me was engulfed in thick smoke as a gorse fire raged along the cliffs. The firefighters were on the scene already trying to stomp out the flames, but it was obviously difficult when they were surrounded by dry grass and gorse which caught fire so quickly. A few days later, I heard that the area around Bloody Bridge in County Down was also experiencing gorse fires, this is only a few miles down the road from Ballymartin where I had seen the last gorse fire. Bloody Bridge is a popular spot for watersports, picnics and sunbathing so the area has been buzzing with people throughout this good weather. On the news, I have seen reports of large gorse fires across the nation, which worries me of how our landscapes are so fragile against the slightest of environmental changes.

Although this heatwave is a weather phenomenon, it is the sort of event that may become more frequent as our climate becomes more unpredictable in the future. Hopefully our governments, in both Ireland and the UK will work harder to implement solutions to the problems climate change and global warming will continue to throw our way.

But for now, there are things you can do to help reduce the risk of gorse fires;

·         Report any fires immediately by calling 999

·         Extinguish all barbeque equipment and cigarettes properly

·         Refrain from setting camp fires

·         Refrain from leaving rubbish in areas that are vulnerable to wildfires, as rubbish like plastic and glass bottles can act as a lens to superheat the ground beneath them resulting in a spark.

For more information on what to do to help prevent wildfires and what to do if you see a wildfire follow the link;