Belfast Telegraph

Pallets row bonfire gets torched... but locals vow to build it again

By Rebecca Black

A controversial east Belfast bonfire set alight in the early hours of yesterday morning is to be rebuilt.

The Walkway pyre hit the headlines when it emerged that Belfast City Council agreed to store pallets for it.

The pallets were then stolen from a council storage depot. Bonfire organisers were angered when the City Hall said it would not replace them.

And there was more bad news for them yesterday morning when collected wood was torched early. However, they have vowed to rebuild it to ensure the bonfire is ready for the Eleventh Night.

Firefighters attended the blaze, just off the Newtownards Road, for almost 12 hours from just after midnight on Wednesday.

The Fire Service said three fire engines and an aerial appliance dealt with the blaze until almost 5am, and remained on the scene until just after 11am.

"This is a deep-seated fire which has required firefighters to return this morning at 5.30am and 6.50am and they remained at the scene until 11.13am," it said.

"The fire continues to smoulder. There is no risk to life or property in the area."

A community source told the Belfast Telegraph that "significant efforts" were being made, and will continue to be made, to rebuild the bonfire.

They added that the young people involved with building it felt "betrayed by the council" after it said it wouldn't replace the stolen pallets.

Inspector Keith Hutchinson of the PSNI said: "Around 12.40am police ­attended a bonfire in Ravenscroft Street in east Belfast which had been set alight.

"Officers alerted the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service which subsequently attended the scene.

"We are continuing to liaise with our partner agencies on this matter."

The cause of the blaze is not yet known.

Ulster Unionist Jim Rodgers had hit out at the size of the Walkway bonfire this year.

The veteran Belfast councillor described it as "much bigger than the previous number of years".

He praised the "magnificent work of the Fire Service risking life and limb to make sure there was no damage to property or anyone's health was going to suffer".

The bonfire, built close to the new Connswater Greenway and also near to a number of homes on Chobham Street, has sparked controversy before. This year it hit the headlines when it was revealed the council agreed to take 3,000 pallets into "safe storage" until the Eleventh Night.

Council officials took the decision after they had been dumped in a public car park, blocking spaces.

The pallets were subsequently stolen from the ratepayer owned storage facility. An investigation into why Belfast City Council agreed to store the pallets is currently under way by officials at the City Hall.

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