All posts by Katie Dickie

MAJORITY OF GORSE FIRES IN THE WEST BRANDED ‘DELIBERATE’ AS FIRES RAGED ACROSS NORTHERN IRELAND

By Katie Dickie

 

The first week in May saw many firefighters deployed to tackle gorse fires across Northern Ireland.

With the arrival of drier weather, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) issued a warning highlighting the extreme dangers and serious consequences of deliberate fire setting in the countryside.

Information released by NIFRS, showed that between May1, and May 8, 511 gorse fires were attended across Northern Ireland with 466 started deliberately.

Figure 1 Pie Chart showing gorse fires in Northern Ireland: constructed using data from NIFRS.

NIFRS revealed that between May 1, and May 8, within the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Areas, they attended 60 gorse fires and 55 of these fires were identified as deliberate.

Figure 2 Pie Chart Showing gorse fires attended in Fermanagh and Omagh District Council Area 2017.

Two fires took hold in the west of the province on Cuilcagh Mountain, Florence Court, County Fermanagh, within a 24-hour period, starting on May 6. The popular boardwalk that allows visitors to climb the mountain was closed during this time as a precautionary measure.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has a reserve that they manage up at Cuilcagh to monitor breeding birds. Following the fire, Brad Robson, RSPB, Fermanagh Area Manager said: “The heather fires have had a devastating impact on wildlife, vegetation and peat. High densities of birds and breeding pairs live here. I have no doubt that 100’s of pairs of Meadow Pipit and Skylark have had their young wiped out.”

There is a large expanse of blanket bog running across the middle slopes of the mountain. It is regarded as one of the largest blanket bogs in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Robson explained: “Culcaigh Mountain is home to frogs, lizards, Irish Hare, moths, butterfly and many other insects and wildlife. In an event such as a fire nature dictates that it’s survival of the fittest and strongest, smaller weaker animals would never make it, it‘s just so sad.”

William Lee, an Agricultural Contractor who was working nearby at the time said: “Fires like these are devastating for the whole community, killing wildlife, severely damaging areas of beauty such as these, causing pollution and tying up our firefighters for days on end. It was lucky there were no human fatalities. To think that most of these fires are deliberate really annoys me.”

Firefighters fighting the blaze at Cuilcaigh Mountain. Photo Credit: Keith Elliott.
Scorched earth in the aftermath of Culcaigh Mountain fire. Photo Credit: Amy Burns.

Reacting to the fires, Area Commander for NIFRS, Maurice Rafferty said: “Tackling gorse and wildland fires is extremely challenging for us. It means deploying firefighters and equipment to remote locations. This can be for prolonged periods of time with our crews working under hazardous and intense heat to bring the fires under control.”

Appealing to the public he said, “We are appealing to everyone within the local community to be aware of the dangers and consequences of deliberate fire setting.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) issued an urgent message to those involved in setting gorse fires to consider the consequences of their actions and asked anyone with information that could identify those involved, to contact their local police station on 101.

Superintendent Emma Bond said: “Gorse fires have the potential to cause widespread damage to the environment and harm to wildlife, as well as threatening homes, farms and the people living in those areas. Those setting fires may be putting their own lives at risk as well as the lives of the fire service personnel and other emergency services tasked to deal with them.”

On May 7, another large fire took place in the west at Slieve Beagh, Special Protection Area (SPA) within Mullaghfad Forest, Fivemiletown, County Fermanagh.

According to the NI Raptor Study Group two active Hen Harrier nests were destroyed on the site. One volunteer said: “ I watched the adults fly around one of the nests in confusion and shock as the flames came closer, with the female only abandoning the nest completely in the final minutes.”

The National Hen Harrier Survey 2016 showed that there were only a maximum of 50 pairs in Northern Ireland, and only eight pairs were successful in fledging young.

A spokesperson for the NI Raptor Group warned: “The nesting and hunting habitat for Hen Harriers in Northern Ireland is disappearing and the situation is more dire than any of us had imagined. This latest blow is heartbreaking.”

Reacting to the gorse fires Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Stephen McCann said: “The majority of these fires were deliberate and I would urge anyone with information relating to who was involved in these fires, to contact the police.”

Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA and DUP Leader, Arlene Foster said: “Many agencies are working to discover the cause of the gorse fires and stop any future incidents. I want to pay tribute to the firefighters who tackled the blazes and often endangered their own lives.”

The scene at Slieve Beagh SPA, Mullaghfad Forest, Fivemiletown. Photo Credit: Donnie Phair.
A Hen Harrier. Photo Credit: Rob Zweers.

Other news reports regarding the gorse fires can be found by clicking on the links below.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-39830810

http://www.impartialreporter.com/news/15280619.Wildlife_dies_in____deliberate____gorse_fires/

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/warning-issued-over-deliberate-gorse-fires-35692738.html

 

Ballinamallard, Grace ‘all set’ to travel to Pierce Camp Birchmont, USA

Grace Verner

 

 

By Katie Dickie

 

Grace Verner, from Ballinamallard in County Fermanagh, will leave Northern Ireland this Friday to work at a children’s camp in the USA.

The twenty-year-old South West College student, is currently undertaking a Foundation Science Degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. After being told she needed to complete 26 weeks industry placement, Grace decided to go and work in the tourism sector within a children’s camp.

Grace had always heard her older brother refer to camp with such fondness.“He would be smiling from ear to ear and always had great stories to tell, in-fact this will be his eighth year heading out”, she said.

Grace and her brother will travel together to Pierce Camp Birchmont, in New Hampshire, USA. “Around 250 children will attend the camp and they range from seven-15 years-old”, Grace explained.

Not one to set off and forget home Grace said “ I will really miss the rest of my family, my dog and the warm feeling of home.”

Grace is a huge music fan and said, “I won’t be leaving home without my headphones and Spotify, I can’t go a day without listening to music.”

To find out more about Grace’s travel plans, please click on the link to my video report below.

 

Figure 1 Pierce Camp Birchmont Interactive Children’s Map.

 

Figure 2  Summer Camp Facts from American Camp Association (2017).

 

Beauty and the Beast film review

By Katie Dickie

 

Beauty and the Beast have recently been relaunched to our cinema screens, with the 2017 version a live action film, compared to the 1991 animation.

Director, Bill Condon, employs the latest technology in visual effects, computer generated imagery. Using 3D computer graphics to create scenes or special effects throughout the film.

When a handsome prince, played by Dan Stevens is transformed into a Beast by an enchantress who warns, “Beauty is found within,” she also places a curse on his servants.

Emma Watson plays Belle, the bookish beauty and heroine. Our first introduction shows her strolling around her home village of Villeneuve, in France, singing, “I want more than this provincial life.”

Gaston, a former soldier in the French army, seeks to marry Belle and is played by Luke Stevens. Will he succeed?

Lefou played by Josh Gad is Gaston’s side- kick and displays subtle affection towards him throughout the film.

Kevin Kline plays Belles father Maurice, a music- box maker. After picking a rose in the grounds of the castle, he is taken captive by the Beast.

Belle becomes a prisoner in exchange for her father going free. Will Belle soften the Beast’s heart?

If she falls in love with him the curse will be lifted on the Beast and his servants. Will this happen before the last petal falls from an enchanted rose?

Is Belle suffering from ‘Stockholm syndrome’? (Where a captive shares feelings of trust or affection toward their captor). Emma Watson has strongly disputed such claims, in recent interviews. I feel the relationship between Belle and the Beast is a matter for your own interpretation.

During a ballroom scene at the end, there is a brief ‘gay encounter’ with Lefou and another gentleman. This storyline has attracted much publicity, however young children would not pick up on this.

Beauty and the Beast is an excellent film, live action gave the film a good pace and depth, something that animation alone could not achieve. Cast performances were all superb.

The soundtrack, which has added three new songs, aided performance and helped convey background storylines.

Sarah Greenwood, production designer, added decadence to the sets and improved viewers understanding of the time period.

A parental guidance (PG) rating has been given to the film, as it contains some violent scenes, but should not unsettle a child aged eight or older.

Click on the links below for alternative reviews.

http://variety.com/2017/film/news/beauty-and-the-beast-reviews-critics-1202001749/

http://www.empireonline.com/movies/beauty-beast-2/review/

http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/beauty-and-the-beast-2017