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Wildfire Warning during Dry Weather

23 April 2020 11:20

 NI Water would like to warn the public that in this warm and dry weather, there is a greater risk of wildfires developing in the countryside due to the burning of vegetation or waste and littering and dumping of waste materials.

Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water comments, “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, and areas which are unfortunately subject to fly-tipping are also our drinking water catchments.   

“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, we can assure customers that tap water quality in the area is unaffected and is of a very high quality standard.

“However, wildfires within these catchments not only pose a terrible risk to all life but removes the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs which supply the water to be treated to become our drinking water.  
 
“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw water in the area, where sediment is accumulated in streams, lakes and reservoirs.  This makes it 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 to ensure excellent quality drinking water during these times, with extra water samples having to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas needing isolated from our raw water intake, and other remedial measures like blocking streams to protect our 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:
If you see a fire in the countryside, report it immediately to the 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 do know people who are fire setting, let the PSNI know to assist with prosecutions. 
If you are in the countryside:
Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly
Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows
Avoid using open fires in the countryside
Be considerate in parking vehicles so as not to impede access by emergency vehicles.

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