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Newcastle fire ‘came very close’ to caravan park

The fire came close to a caravan park. Credit: UTV

A large wildfire in the Mourne Mountains came “very close” to spreading to a nearby caravan park, its manager has told UTV.

Around 1,000 people had to be evacuated from Bonny’s Caravan Park overnight as fire crews tackled the blaze.

The fire, which started at Tollymore Forest, was up to a mile long at one stage.

Police said it is "likely that the fire was started deliberately" and have asked anyone with information to come forward.

Eyewitness footage showed the scale of the fire. Credit: Christine Watson

Manager Emelyn Williamson described the scene as the flames approached the caravan site, forcing residents out of their homes.

“It definitely was very close at a stage,” he said.

“The wind was turning so you just didn’t know where the flames were going to go and if the fire had got in here with the type of wind it was it could have jumped everywhere.

“It was definitely a risk.”

Mr Williamson said a number of local people helped with the evacuation, while a nearby council-run centre was opened for emergency shelter.

“We were round the site a couple of times just making sure everyone was gone,” he continued.

“Luckily the wind did seem to change direction and blow the fire down the hill and obviously the fire brigade did their bit to keep everything down.”

The Fire Service worked overnight to bring the fire under control.

Residents of Bonny’s Caravan Park, and those living in Tullybrannigan Road who were also evacuated, have now been allowed to return.

The cause of the fire, which started at around 8.30pm on Sunday, is thought to have been deliberate.

Detective Chief Inspector Will Tate said: "The fire caused widespread damage and led to a number of evacuations, including from a nearby caravan park.

"Our colleagues in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service have now determined that it is likely that the fire was started deliberately and I am appealing to people to assist us in our investigation.

"Anyone with information or who may have seen something that could be useful to investigators, please contact us on 101, quoting reference 1407 21/04/19."