Belfast Telegraph

Crackdown urged as bill for bonfire call-outs hits £3.7m

By Victoria McMahon

Police have been urged to crack down on anti-social elements which surround Eleventh Night bonfires after it emerged that the Fire Service has shelled out £3.7m in the last five years.

Last year nearly £1m was spent by the Fire Service as crews tackled nearly 300 incidents during May, June and July in the lead-up to the July bonfires.

Fire crews were dispatched to 1,352 bonfire connected incidents between 2004 and 2009, according to new figures that emerged from an Assembly question asked by SDLP MLA Thomas Burns.

Safety concerns have long been raised about the annual infernos.

This summer a family returned from holiday to find their Newtownards house gutted by a fire that started at a nearby makeshift bonfire hut on July 8.

Mr Burns blamed anti-social youths gathering at bonfire sites for the costly fire call-outs.

The Assembly Member said: “Call-outs to bonfires on the Eleventh Night are not the problem, it is the anti-social elements that are hanging around bonfire sites in the weeks and months leading up to the Twelfth that are causing the trouble.

“Feral youths sit around on old sofas drinking, lighting small fires, setting fire to rival bonfires and generally causing bother into the early hours of the morning.

“This has nothing to do with the Orange culture or tradition, it is simply anti-social behaviour of the worst kind and it is costing us a fortune to deal with it.

“The costs are rising every year and this cannot be allowed to continue. I call on the PSNI to do more to rid communities of this nuisance element which blights many neighbourhoods and puts an unnecessary strain on our emergency services.”

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