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As Northern Ireland bakes in 27 degree heat walkers warned of Mourne Mountains wildfire risk

Walkers in the Mourne Mountains are this weekend being warned to be wary of the dangers wild fires.

There is a greater risk of wildfires at this time of year mainly due to easterly wind conditions, high temperatures, dry weather and the burning of waste, littering and dumping of waste materials.

Temperatures are set to peak at around 27 degrees on Saturday afternoon before dipping slightly on Sunday.

However, all through the most of next week temperatures will sit in and around a sultry 24-26 degrees with the best of it coming on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Wildfires not only pose a risk to human life, wildlife, property and the environment, but also to our drinking water supply,” said Rebecca Allen, Catchment Liaison Officer at NI Water.

“Many areas which might be prone to wildfires like the Mourne Mountains are also unfortunately subject to fly-tipping which can easily trigger wildfires. While these places may well be insta-worthy, it is important to remember they do an important job for all of us by providing drinking water to much of our country and so they must be respected.

“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 can remove the primary layer of vegetation, leaving the burned bare soil exposed to erosion which then makes its way into the reservoirs, from where water is abstracted for treatment to be drinking water.

“The great erosion caused by wildfire increases carbon and other polluting chemicals significantly in raw (untreated) water, with sediment accumulates in streams, lakes and reservoirs.  This makes raw water 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, and other remedial measures must be taken 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.

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