Firefighters in Northern Ireland escalate their battle against a large gorse fire in the Morne Mountains.
The fire in the Slieve Donard area started in the early hours of Friday morning.
Dramatic images of the burning Co Down summit have raised concerns. First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted: “This is devastating and tragic. The effects on wildlife and flora are unimaginable. Full support for those fighting the flames. “
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis described the scenes as “deeply disturbing” at one of the most beautiful landmarks in the area. He paid tribute to the firefighters at the scene.
On Saturday morning, the Northern Irish Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) announced that operations in the Mournes are escalating and described a “large number of resources” that are present.
The NIFRS has urged the public not to congregate in the area and urged walkers to avoid Slieve Donard’s Newcastle side.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Police Service (PSNI) said the fire fighting operation is expected to resume on Saturday.
“Police would ask all members of the public to avoid the Newcastle area, particularly Trassey Road, Bloody Bridge, Tollymore Forest Park and Donard Carpark, to ensure that NIFRS has full access to these areas,” they said .
“We know that many people have made plans to go for a walk on the Mournes today, but we ask that you make another appointment as you will be turned away on arrival.”
Colin McGrath, MLA for the SDLP, said there had been hope that the fire could be contained on Friday, but light winds had spread the flames.
“On Friday afternoon there were around 60 brave firefighters doing their best to keep the fire going. The smoke was visible as far as Downpatrick,” he said.
“I appreciate your bravery and determination. Unfortunately, this will have a devastating impact not only on the natural landscape but also on Newcastle’s local economy which is so dependent on the tourist product we associate with the Mournes. “