Almost 200 deliberate fires were started in the southern area over the Easter school holiday fortnight last year.
And, with that being the highest of the four areas covered by Northern Ireland Area Fire and Rescue Service, an appeal has gone out to avoid any repetition this year.
With Good Friday beginning the Bank Holiday weekend, NIFRS is appealing for the help of the community in stamping out deliberate fire setting and other anti-social behaviours, particularly during the Easter school holidays.
Over the Easter period last year – April 10 to 23 – firefighters dealt with 417 deliberate fires – a 67% increase from the Easter period in 2016.
Of these, 176 were in the Southern Command Area, 117 in the Eastern Area, 73 in the Western Area and 51 in the Northern Command Area.
Of all of these deliberate fires, 177 were gorse fires.
There were also 11 attacks on firefighters and the Regional Control Centre received 52 hoax calls.
Now NIFRS is encouraging young people in particular to act as ambassadors for their fire and rescue service by educating their friends about the serious consequences of deliberately starting fires, attacking firefighters or making hoax calls.
Gerry Lennon, Group Commander, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) explained: “While we deal with the issues of deliberate fire setting, hoax calls and attacks on Firefighters throughout the year we do find that over a school holiday period, such as Easter, there are unfortunately a small minority of people who continue to put an extra strain on our resources by engaging in such anti-social behaviour.
“A 67% increase in deliberate fire setting over the Easter period last year is concerning and whilst we believe the milder weather presented more opportunity for deliberate fire setting I am appealing to people to be responsible and to be aware of consequences of such activities.
“Setting fire to grass, bushes or rubbish is dangerous as these fires can quickly escalate which can pose a serious risk to life, property and the environment.
“This type of behaviour puts an additional pressure on our Regional Control Centre staff who answer 999 calls and our Firefighters who have to respond to these incidents.
“Attacking Firefighters – people who are from your own local area and who work hard to protect the whole community – is totally unacceptable.
“Making hoax calls and diverting resources away from a potential real emergency is very short sighted because it could be someone from your family or one of your friends who need the help of firefighters in a real emergency.
“We want everyone to enjoy their Easter break but to be aware of the stark reality of their actions should they choose to start a deliberate fire, 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.”