Belfast Telegraph

40 bonfire-related incidents reported on Eleventh Night

By Aaron Tonney and Sue Doherty

The Fire and Rescue Service was receiving a 999 call every minute at the height of the busiest period over the Eleventh Night.

Firefighters responded to 40 bonfire-related incidents across Northern Ireland overnight on Tuesday - an increase of 21% on last year.

Despite fears over trouble, only six people were arrested on Tuesday night for disorder associated with bonfires.

And just three people were arrested during yesterday's Twelfth festivities.

Between 6pm on Tuesday and 1am on Wednesday, the fire service dealt with a total of 213 emergency calls.

During the busiest period, its regional control centre said it handled one 999 call every minute.

Firefighters were deployed to a total of 133 incidents overnight, which was a rise of nearly 50% on the same period in 2016.

In a statement, the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) described the night as "exceptionally busy". It said the two most significant bonfire-related incidents were in the Greater Belfast area.

Assistant chief fire officer Alan Walmsley said the emergency call-outs included three house fires, including one in Belfast, not related to loyalist bonfires.

And despite coming to help the community, fire crews were abused and attacked three times as they battled fires. Mr Walmsley said two fire crews were attacked as they left the scene of bonfires in Belfast and Larne.

Mr Walmsley added: "It was just disappointing the crews were attacked after they had finished up on two sites.

"After working so hard at Wellwood Street for a number of hours to protect properties, as our crews were leaving one of our appliances came under attack by local youths.

"The same situation happened in Larne where our crews worked extremely hard at a bonfire protecting local properties and again when they were leaving they came under attack."

He also stressed it was the first time in five years fire crews had been attacked in Northern Ireland, and no injuries were reported.

Mr Walmsley said: "We work well with communities.

"I just want to stress that, and how hard fire service staff worked in extremely challenging circumstances."

Despite the pressures of July 11, the fire service said it "maintained normal service delivery throughout the evening, attending a range of operational incidents including property fires, special service calls and other emergency incidents".

The PSNI also had a busy night - but added that there was a welcome decline in the number of public order incidents.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd told the Belfast Telegraph: "It is pleasing to note that the annual downward trend of public order incidents on July 11 night has continued."

Mr Todd added: "It was a busy night for police.

"We dealt with a number of incidents.

"These included reports of offensive behaviour, assault, anti-social behaviour and attacks on emergency services.

"Investigations into these incidents are ongoing.

"We have gathered evidence in relation to some of the complaints and we will conduct further enquiries to endeavour to bring anyone responsible for criminal activity before the courts."

Despite these incidents, he explained that things were continuing to improve.

"While there were clearly tensions in some areas, the fact that there were no reports of significant disorder nor injury is to be welcomed," he said.

"We thank our partners in agencies and communities for helping us to ensure that this was the case."

Belfast Telegraph

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