Fire safety reminder given to bonfire builders

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is urging bonfire builders to follow fire safety advice and act responsibly to help ensure public safety.

Bonfire site at Monrush in Cookstown

Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Community Protection said: “Our main priority is to keep people safe from the dangers of fire and so we appeal directly to bonfire builders and community representatives to listen to our advice.

“Bonfires should be kept at a manageable size and sited in a clear, open space a safe distance from buildings and overhead cables. A bonfire should be a minimum distance of five times its height from property.

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“It should not contain any potentially hazardous materials or tyres which release toxic fumes. These are harmful to the environment and also cause hazardous health conditions for those attending or living close to the bonfire.

“The exceptionally hot weather over recent weeks has increased the potential risk of fire spread from bonfires as embers can easily be carried, depending on wind speed and direction, to surrounding properties and vegetation.

“The safety of the public and Firefighters attending bonfires is our 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 and to help ensure public safety.

“We are asking bonfire builders to think fire safety first at bonfires. Our safety advice, if adhered to, will help to reduce the potential risks to communities, properties and the environment.

“We want to remind the public that we do not have enforcement power in relation to the size and location of bonfires – the ultimate responsibility lies with the landowner on which the bonfire is built.

“The 11th July is one of our busiest nights of the year - and it is no secret that we have already experienced a significant increase in operational activities due to the hot weather and large number of gorse fires. Our Firefighters have been working in the most hazardous and challenging conditions so we are urging bonfire builders to act responsibly to minimise the risks to ensure people remain safe.

“Our well-rehearsed contingency plans are in place and our Command Room is operational to ensure that we maintain emergency cover across Northern Ireland. In addition to attending bonfire related incidents we also need to ensure our normal service delivery to incidents such as house fires and road traffic collisions is maintained right across Northern Ireland.

“Firefighters will be attending bonfire incidents on the 11th 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 harassment.”

Last year, Firefighters attended 56 bonfire related incidents across Northern Ireland over the 11th night (6pm 11 July – 6am 12 July), compared to 35 in 2016. This was the highest number of bonfire incidents attended in the last five years.