Gorse fires in County Antrim

A 10-year-old boy is being questioned by police over the 200 wild fires which are currently raging across Northern Ireland.

The boy, along with another 15-year-old male was apprehended on Monday by police on suspicion of arson in Sixmilecross, County Tyrone.

PSNI Chief Inspector Graham Dodds told said he was concerned by the young age of those involved with the attacks.

“While I would praise the excellent work of my officers and their Fire Service colleagues in this current apprehension, it is extremely distressing to learn of the young ages of those involved,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

News of the arrest came as fire department officials warned the public to avoid gorse and grass areas, describing conditions in some areas as “extremely dangerous”.

READ MORE: Firefighters in Ireland fight over 755 wildfires in dry highlands

Investigators believe the fires were started deliberately as hundreds of firefighters desperately battle against the spreading fires which have forced people to evacuate their homes across Northern Ireland.

A combination of dry weather and high winds mean that hundreds of acres across the Mourne and Sperrin mountains have been described as no-go areas.

Fires spread across a gorse land at a meter a second on some places.

Farmers are permitted to burn gorse off their land during a restricted annual time. However the Ulster Farmers’ Union was moved swiftly to deny responsibility.

Spokesman Joe McDonald told the Belfast Telegraph: “There is a period in the calender year when farmers are allowed to manage gorse. This ends in April and we are beyond that now. This is a legitimate farmland practice that is done in controlled conditions with guidance from Dard (Department for Agriculture and Rural Development).

“There are no indications whatsoever that this has anything to do with the farming community.”

Dale Ashford, the Northern Ireland Fire Service assistant chief fire officer warned on Tuesday night that lives could be out at risk due to the arson attacks.

“At this time I would appeal to members of the public not to go near gorse land or grassland areas where these incidents are ongoing as it can be dangerous to the potential for fire spread,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.