Dungiven gorse fire 'may have been deliberate'

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The fire was reported to emergency services at lunchtime on TuesdayImage source, Claudia Daly
Image caption,
The fire was reported to emergency services at lunchtime on Tuesday

A large gorse fire in County Londonderry may have been started deliberately, fire crews have said.

Almost 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at Altahullion Hill near Dungiven which took crews about 20 hours to bring under control.

It was reported at about 13:00 BST on Tuesday.

Mark Smyth from the NI Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) said "countryside vandals" may have been responsible for the blaze.

"This is one of two things, either controlled burning outside of controlled burning season which ends on 14 April.

“Or this is people being countryside vandals who want to be out there lighting fires, ruining the countryside and the wildlife in these areas," he said.

Eight appliances attended the blaze on Tuesday, with a crew staying at the scene overnight.

A further 20 personnel were in attendance on Wednesday morning.

Commander Smyth said there had been some concerns the fire may have spread towards nearby properties, and crews had been constantly assessing that threat.

Commander Smyth said that figure was "extremely high" and asked people to be aware of the pressures emergency services are under because of the coronavirus outbreak.

"I for one would plead with people, don’t light any fires in the countryside for any reason at this present time," he said.