Irish Air Corps helicopters deployed in Northern Ireland

The Irish Air Corps has been deployed in Northern Ireland for its first operation assisting the fire service.

An Agusta Westland and a Eurocopter have been deployed a short distance across the border in the Slieve Gullion area of south Armagh where a "deep seated" gorse fire is raging.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Defence Forces said the helicopters are equipped with a "Bambi" bucket aerial firefighting system capable of dropping 1,200 litres of water per pass.

She said this amount of water, concentrated in a small areas, makes an immediate impact on wildfires, adding that facility has been used extensively during the past 10 days in the Irish Republic to support the Irish Fire Service in fighting gorse fires.

The move comes following a request made by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

She said that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in contact with the UK Authorities to "ensure all necessary permissions are in place for the Air Corps to cross the border".

A spokeswoman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) Spokesperson said this is the first time the Irish Air Corps had assisted them.

"Due to the deep-seated nature of the gorse fire at Slieve Gullion Mountain and the challenging conditions, NIFRS can confirm that it requested assistance from the Air Rescue Co-ordination Centre (ARCC)," she said.

"They have deployed two Irish Air Corps helicopters which are currently at the scene, one is involved in aerial firefighting and one is being used as an observation point.

"This is the first time Irish Air Corps helicopters have been used for firefighting by NIFRS."

A spokeswoman for the Irish Defence Force confirmed the Air Corps had not participated in fire-fighting operations in Northern Ireland before, but said it had assisted in cross-border operations.

"The Air Corps has not participated in fire-fighting operations in Northern Ireland previously, but has assisted in cross-border operations during severe weather occurrences, providing helicopter cargo slinging operations to drop fodder to livestock in isolated areas and has also conducted helicopter search and rescue operations," she said.

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