09/07/2019

NIFRS Plea For Bonfire Safety

The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service has called for safe, responsible behaviour as members of the loyalist and unionist community light bonfires on Thursday night, 11 July.

Last year's celebrations saw firefighters attend 57 bonfire related incidents between 6pm and 1am, one more incident than in 2017 and the highest number of bonfire related calls for three years.

As a result of the severe pressure facing the NIFRS and the spike in emergency calls, bonfire organisers are urged to keep the constructions to a manageable size, sited in a clear, open space a safe distance away from buildings and overhead cables.

A bonfire should be a minimum distance of five times its height from property. It should not contain any potentially hazardous materials or tyres which release toxic fumes as these are harmful to the environment and can also contribute towards health conditions for those attending or living close to the bonfire.

So far this week, materials have been moved from three bonfires in east Belfast, with 1800 tyres recovered from one. Council voted on Monday to take action over the Avoniel and Ashdale Street sites, prompting organisers to step in and remove the tyres.
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Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer and Director of Service Delivery said: "The 11 July has the potential to be one of our busiest nights of the year. 

"The safety of the public and our Firefighters is top priority and we have been working closely and proactively with local communities, statutory agencies and elected representatives in an effort to reduce the number of bonfire related incidents to help ensure public safety.

"We are asking those building and attending bonfires to think safety first. Our safety advice, if adhered to, will help to reduce the potential risks to communities, properties and the environment."

The NIFRS has no enforcement power when it comes to the size and location of bonfires, as the ultimate responsibility lies with the landowner.

"There is no such thing as a completely safe bonfire," Mr Walmsley added. "Bonfires can pose a very real risk to public safety and property.

"Firefighters will be attending bonfire incidents on the 11 night to protect life and property from the dangers of fire. I'm appealing to the local community for their support to ensure that Firefighters are able to carry out their job without fear of attack or potential harassment.

"I would like to reassure the community that our well-rehearsed contingency plans are in place and our Command Room will be operational to ensure that we maintain emergency cover across Northern Ireland."



(JG/CM)

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