Published Tuesday, 29 May 2012
The fire was put out early on Tuesday morning. (© Presseye)
The three acre blaze began at around 9.30pm on Monday and could be seen across the city.
Up to 25 fire fighters and four engines tackled the blaze, with fire crews remaining on Cave Hill until 11pm on Monday, at which stage Group Commander Kevin O'Neill said they had to withdraw "because of the difficulty of the terrain and the dangers associated with working in the night time".
"Unfortunately it was a deliberate act," he explained.
"Our crews have been informed that there were youths on the mountain last night who were seen lighting the fire."
The fire was kept under observation overnight to ensure it did not spread towards any homes or businesses and at around 5.30am on Tuesday crews returned to Cave Hill to extinguish the blaze.
The blaze happened just two days after a wildlife survey on Cave Hill recorded hundreds of species, including rare plants and animals.
Badgers, bats, hares and birds of prey all live in the area and Jim Bradley, Belfast Hills Partnership Manager said Cave Hill has suffered repeated attacks with devastating effects.
"Lighting fires poses a real danger for people using the Belfast Hills and also for those setting the fires - especially with cliff edges present in Cave Hill Country Park.
"We ask the public to remain vigilant and phone 999 when they see a hill fire.
"In conjunction with Belfast City Council we have just erected fire card dispensers at Belfast Castle which explains what to do when a fire is spotted.
"We hope we can educate and help reduce the instances of gorse fires in the Belfast Hills in future, but we do need the public's continued help," added Mr Bradley.