Tollymore Forest fire under control after hundreds evacuated near Mourne Mountains

More than 50 firefighters were sent to the fire. Credit: Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes to escape a large wildfire in Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains.

More than 50 firefighters were sent to Tollymore Forest in Newcastle on Sunday night and police warned the public to avoid the area.

A nearby caravan park was immediately evacuated and a local council-run centre was opened for emergency shelter.

The fire took hold of gorse – a highly-flammable shrub – and was under control by Monday morning despite “punishing and challenging” conditions on a warm Easter Sunday.

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service’s annual figures suggest 92% of all gorse fires are started deliberately.

Figures suggest 92% of all gorse fires are started deliberately. Credit: Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Alan Walmsley said: “Our crews have dealt with a number of gorse fires over the weekend, unbelievably the majority of these fires are started deliberately.

“We would ask anyone involved in this behaviour to think about their actions and the impact on their local community.”

On Monday morning, Group Commander Eddie Carroll, confirmed the incident had been brought under control.

Residents were allowed back to their properties in the early hours and a small number of crews remain at the scene.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Fire and Rescue Service said on Sunday: “Crews are currently dealing with a wildfire with a mile long fire front.

“Their main priority at this time is protecting the properties in the vicinity of the fire.

“Operations will continue through the night and into Easter Monday.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.