The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) have warned that gorse fires could cost lives in the North West.
The Journal can reveal that fire crews in the North West attended a staggering 104 gorse fires from Limavady to Strabane in the four weeks up to April 10.
Most were started deliberately.
Remarkably crews responded to 27 fires across the district in only two days, Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th April.
The Brigade revealed that in the week from Friday April 15th to Thursday 21th fire service personnel attended 250 gorse fire related incidents, representing 49% of all crew mobilisations for that period.
The Brigade also stated that 96% of the gorse fires attended were started deliberately.
Eamon Gallagher, Western Area Commander with the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, warned: “It is a serious community issue that needs to be addressed. Both deliberate and accidental fires can cost lives.
“The community in Northern Ireland needs to decide where they want their Fire and Rescue Service.
“Do they want us up mountains tackling deliberately set fires or at their local Fire Stations ready to deal with life threatening emergencies and protecting our community?”
Gorse fire attendances rose by 158% across Northern Ireland from 2009 to 2010.
Commander Gallagher said that the rate of gorse fires increased after 20th March because of the dry weather.
From Sunday 20th March to Sunday 3rd April there were 69 call outs for gorse fires for crews from Crescent Link, Northland, Strabane, Dungiven and Limavady Stations.
From Monday 4th April to Sunday 10th the crews attended another 35 gorse fires.
Commander Gallagher said: “When individuals decide to deliberately start fires they are putting not only firefighters lives at risk but also everyone in the local community.
“Tackling gorse and wildland fires means deploying Firefighters and their equipment, to usually quite remote locations, often for prolonged period of times, working under hazardous and intense heat to bring these fires under control. These fires can easily spread and even a slight change in wind direction can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.
“Gorse Fires put extra pressure on NIFRS resources. We cannot be in two places at once and fighting these fires mean that fire appliances are taken away from other duties and are unable to respond if another emergency call comes in.
“I want people young people to enjoy their Easter break but to be aware of the stark reality of their actions should they set fires, make Hoax Calls or attack our Firefighters.
“Remember, we may be the target but it’s you and your local community who are the victims.”