BEACH lifeguards have been hailed for their part in stemming a wildfire blaze close to Royal Portrush Golf Club at the weekend.
Flames of up to 20 feet engulfed sand dunes close to the world famous Dunluce links - which hosted last year’s Irish Open.
The sprawling fire also threatened the adjacent Rathmore Golf Club and residential homes near both courses.
The cause of the blaze has not been established but it is understood there had been a number of similar incidents of fires at sand dunes in the area recently.
Around 25 firefighters and four fire appliances were called to tackle the blaze near East Strand beach at 4.20pm on Saturday.
They managed to bring it under control in an hour - thanks to the bravery of on-duty lifeguards who spotted the fire and moved quickly to prevent its spread to the prestigious course.
“There was prompt action from the lifeguards in the area,” said Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service area commander Mark McGranaghan.
“That helped our case and helped reduce the spread of it. They quickly moved to start to beat the fire out.”
Mr McGranaghan added: “The scene looked spectacular.
“It started to go towards the golf club and residential houses, so there was quick action from the crews to prevent that from getting any further.”
Firefighters thanked the lifeguards at the scene for their help.
A resident who lives close to where the fire took hold said: “I don’t know if it’s deliberate or whether people are leaving barbecues behind them,” the resident said.
“The flames were nearly 20ft high at times.”
No homes were evacuated as a result of the incident, and as yet it is not known how the fire was started. Police have appealed for information.
Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is warning people to think about the consequences of deliberate fire setting in the countryside and mountains. The NIFRS has received 548 emergency calls relating to gorse fires in the first seven days of April alone, resulting in firefighters responding to 387 gorse fires.
Police have asked for anybody with information regarding the blaze to contact them.