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Chobham Street bonfire: Homes evacuated, others boarded up, as hour of the 'towering inferno' looms

'It's a siege mentality. They don't give a hoot about the residents'

By Claire McNeilly

Published 11/07/2015

Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up
Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up
A workman boarding up houses at Chobham Street
Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up
Pensioner Norman Higginson, who suffers from an illness, assesses the bonfire at the bottom of Chobham Street
A bonfire at Cregagh Park

Terrified residents have told how they have been advised to board themselves into their own homes for protection from a massive bonfire.

The windows of 52 houses in east Belfast were fitted with fire-resistant panels yesterday ahead of the eleventh night, while boards to cover the doors are to be erected later.

Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up
Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up

As first revealed by the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week, a number of families have moved out of the area around Chobham Street amid fears of what will happen when a towering loyalist bonfire is lit just 30 feet from their properties.

But people who weren't being evacuated have raised safety concerns about the pyre, which has been built on waste ground at the Comber Greenway, just yards from the buildings and a copse of trees.

A resident of Finvoy Street, situated behind the trees opposite the bonfire, said she was "nervous" about tonight.

"We've been told to put the board on the front door and stay inside when they light the bonfire," the pensioner said.

"My daughter is coming round to sit with me as I'm too scared to stay in the house alone.

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"People around here are frightened because the bonfire is a lot bigger this year than it has ever been and because we've never had to be boarded up in our houses before."

Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Bonfire builders at Mount Vernon in north Belfast. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
Chobham Street where more than 50 homes have been boarded up to protect them from a 11 July bonfire. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye
A workman boarding up houses at Chobham Street
Properties near the Chobham Street bonfire are boarded up
A bonfire at Cregagh Park
Bonfires are seen as a loyalist tradition
The bonfire at Ballymacash
Pallets stacked ready to be placed on the structure
There is to be a tightening of regulations regarding old tyres to prevent bonfires
Firefighters at the scene of the Sandy Row bonfire after it was set alight early
Firefighters at the scene of the Sandy Row bonfire after it was set alight early
Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street. Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 25/06/2015 Sandy Row Bonfire Firefighters extinguish the blaze at the Sandy Row Bonfire. The structure, in the car park of the Days Hotel on Wellwood Street, was lit on Thursday morning and has now been extinguished. However police remain at the scene where a man in his 30s has been detained as a result of disturbances in the area. Photo Aidan O'Reilly/Pacemaker Press
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye AWARD-WINNING Belfast restaurant, Tedfords on Donegall Quay, is set to open a second restaurant in the city centre in the next two weeks, creating 20 new jobs. Owned and managed by husband and wife team, Alan and Sharon Foster, over ¬£250,000 has been invested in TedfordsÄô Kitchen, which is scheduled to open at the beginning of July and is situated at No. 1 Lanyon Quay. Pictured L Äì R are Colin Angus, Facilities Manager and Cormac Artt, Head of Design from Richmond Interiors & Fit Out with TedfordsÄô Kitchen Proprietor & Group Head Chef, Alan Foster ¬and Co-Proprietor, Sharon Foster
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye Belfast - Northern Ireland - Thursday 25th June 2015 - Sandy Row Bonfire Pictured is firefighters at the scene of the Sandyrow bonfire as it was set alight early on Thursday Morning Picture - Kevin Scott / Presseye
The bonfire at Sandy Row has been set alight early. Pic Twitter/StephenMcVey/BBC
Tyres surrounding the bonfire at New Mossley

There are already 1,700 pallets on the 30ft bonfire, which has a core of tyres down the middle - and there are 700 additional pallets which could be added to it.

"I'm glad I won't be able to see the trees in front of my home being burnt down because that would be awful," the woman, who asked not to be named, said.

"The people building the bonfire just want to have a good night but I don't think they understand that the rest of us - who used to enjoy watching the bonfire from the top of the street - won't be able to.

"After 11.30pm we won't see anything at all because we'll all be locked inside our houses."

She added: "I just wish it was all over, to be honest."

Another resident said he'd been told the row of trees in front of his house will go up in flames.

"It's absolutely ridiculous that nobody can do anything to stop this from happening," he said.

"It's a siege mentality. They don't give a hoot about the residents.

"I can't abide the idea of sitting in there in the dark tomorrow night. It's horrible." Homes close to the bonfire at Lena Street and Chobham Street were boarded up by lunchtime yesterday.

At nearby Beechwood Street, where property maintenance contractors employed by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive were still working, a female resident said she was worried.

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Residents to be left in dark for own safety as flames rise

"Hopefully nothing bad is going to happen," she added.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said lives and property were being put at risk.

"Even at this late stage I'm asking the people behind the bonfire to reduce its size," he said.

"It's deeply worrying and unacceptable.

"People could lose their lives and homes could be damaged.

"I don't want to see this area ruined.

"I was born and brought up in it. I'm appealing to people to listen to the voice of reason."

One of the organisers of the Comber Greenway bonfire said there were no plans to reduce its size.

He also confirmed that no decision had been made on whether to add an extra 700 pallets to it on the eleventh night, or to use them for a second fire the following night.

Every year in Northern Ireland loyalists compete to see who can build the biggest July 11 bonfire.

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