Wildfire Risk Still High Warns NI Water
26 April 2021 14:50
NI Water would like to warn any adventurous walkers who plan a trip to the countryside and or mountains that there is still a risk of wildfires.
There is a greater risk of wildfires this week mainly due to strong easterly wind conditions and an increase in activities such as littering, use of disposable BBQ’s and burning of waste.
Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water explains further, “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, are also areas which are unfortunately subject to fly-tipping which can cause wildfires. While these places may well be insta-worthy, it’s important to remember they do an important job for all of us by providing drinking water and so they must be respected.
“Although the terrible fire at Slieve Donard has not affected any of our current water catchment areas, that doesn’t mean that future fires won’t, so we still need to be extremely careful when visiting such areas.”
Some Do’s and Don’ts when in these areas during hot, dry weather:
- Do not light fires in and around forests or open land;
- Do not attempt to intervene or fight fires under any circumstances;
- If you see a fire, gather all family/group members and move to a safe fuel-free location such as a car park, upwind of the fire;
- Telephone the NI Fire and Rescue Service on 999 and report the fire and its location;
- Evacuate if instructed to do so, and cooperate with all Emergency Service Instructions;
- If you see someone setting fires, report it to the PSNI immediately.
Rebecca continues: “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 of wildfires, we can assure customers that tap water quality is unaffected and is of a very high quality.
“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 is 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 at the treatment works to ensure excellent quality drinking water during these times. Extra water samples have to be collected and analysed, streams from burned areas need isolated from our raw water intake, and other remedial measures like blocking streams to protect 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 are in the countryside:
- Leave no trace; take your rubbish with you
- Never fly-tip waste material;
- Extinguish cigarettes and other flammable materials properly;
- Never throw cigarette ends out of car windows;
- Avoid using open fires.
Notes to editor