Belfast Telegraph

Pictured: Fire Service dealt with blaze at controversial Northern Ireland bonfire site for almost 12 hours

Belfast council stored pallets for Eleventh night celebrations

By Jonathan Bell

A controversial bonfire site - which Belfast City Council stored pallets for - was set on fire tying up life-saving Fire Service resources for almost 12 hours.

Firefighters attended the blaze in the Holywood Arches area overnight. They worked for several hours to tackle the blaze which was still smouldering on Wednesday morning.

Belfast councillor Jim Rodgers said "but for the magnificent work" of the fire service, property was not damaged and lives saved.

"I don't know who started this, maybe rival bonfire builders," he told the BBC Stephen Nolan Radio Ulster show.

"Residents have been complaining about the fumes, but so far no one has had to leave their property."

He described the pyre as "quite big, much bigger than in previous years".

PSNI Inspector Keith Hutchinson added: “Around 12.40am on Wednesday, police attended a bonfire in Ravenscroft Street in east Belfast which had been set alight. Officers alerted the NIFRS which subsequently attended the scene. We are continuing to liaise with our partner agencies on this matter.”

A Fire Service spokeswoman said three appliances and an aerial appliance dealt with the fire until almost 5am and were forced to remain 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.  The fire continues to smoulder.  There is no risk to life or property in the area.”

The site sparked controversy when it was revealed the council took the some 3,000 pallets for "safe storage" until the Eleventh night. Council officials took the decision to move the pallets when they were dumped in a public car park blocking spaces.

The pallets were subsequently stolen from the ratepayer owned storage facility.

Read more: UDA boss Stitt's gang behind theft of bonfire pallets stored by Belfast City Council

An investigation into why Belfast City Council agreed to store the wooden pallets is underway by city hall officials. Efforts were made to discuss the issue behind closed doors at this week's monthly meeting, but councillors voted to allow the public and Press to stay for the announcement.

The probe will examine why the council stored 3,000 wooden pallets for loyalist bonfire builders on Chobham and Hope Street.

The controversy surrounding the matter intensified after the Belfast Telegraph revealed they had been stolen from council premises on the Gransha Road.

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