The Belfast Cavehill fire has destroyed 3.5 acres of natural habitat


A blaze that saw firefighters rush to Cavehill this week tore through 3.5 acres of gorse on the mountain in north Belfast.

Belfast City Council, which owns the land, said the flames spread from McArts Fort to Upper Cavehill Road.

Police arrested a teenager in west Belfast on suspicion of arson on Thursday. He has since been released on bail pending further investigation.

Read more:Teenager arrested over Cavehill fire

The blaze, which burned on Wednesday evening and Thursday, is the latest to hit Northern Ireland after incidents in the Mournes and the Black Mountain.

This has prompted new calls for attention and consideration due to the devastating impact they have on wildlife.

3.5 acres were burned

A spokesman for Belfast City Council said: ‘We encourage all visitors to respect our natural surroundings when visiting Cavehill and to avoid lighting open fires.

“Open fires can escalate quickly and pose a serious risk to public health and safety.

“They can also have a detrimental effect on important habitats and local wildlife in the area.

“Anyone observing a fire should report it immediately to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.”

Such incidents can leave a trail of destruction in their wake, as they burn through brush, destroying nests, habitat, and killing creatures.

Simon Gray, senior conservation officer at Ulster Wildlife, said: ‘Wildfires are bad news for biodiversity as they destroy habitats and kill hosts of insects, reptiles and amphibians that cannot escape to the flames.

The recent Cavehill fire

“Even birds and larger animals that may be able to avoid danger are often left without nests or dens, or their young are killed.

“Although vegetation and habitats can regenerate, some species can take many years to return if they ever do.”

In addition to the impact on wildlife, gorse fires “also destroy vegetation leaving soils exposed”.

“It exposes them to erosion and damage,” added Simon.

“Not only does this damage habitats that have been burned, but the eroded material can have detrimental effects on the rivers and lakes where it ends up.

“Furthermore, when the fires burn, the carbon stored in the vegetation burns off, releasing carbon dioxide and other potent greenhouse gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, into the atmosphere.

“Please remember to act responsibly in the countryside and follow ‘Leave No Trace’ principles, taking care to avoid fires or barbecues near areas of vegetation.”

Residents were asked to close their windows

This latest wildfire was first reported around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday, with firefighters battling to put it out until Thursday afternoon.

PSNI Chief Inspector Fox said: “Police will be proactive in thoroughly investigating these reports and will urge property owners and members of the public to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police via 101, online or in case of emergency 999.”

Read more:NI Fire Service warns of increased wildfire risk this weekend

Read more:Augher House fire: 10 fire appliances present during Co Tyrone incident

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