Belfast Telegraph

Chobham Street bonfire: Residents to be left in dark for own safety as flames rise

By Claire McNeilly

By lunchtime on Friday the Chobham Street bonfire in Belfast was 30ft high.

The temperature was hitting 22.7C in the blazing sun... but they continued building.

A team of 15 men and boys, gathering pallets, keeping watch, deterring unwanted visitors from setting foot on public property.

Residents in the area say this year's bonfire, situated on grassland on a section of the popular Comber Greenway cycle path, is the biggest yet.

And they have a pretty good view of it, erected as it has been in some cases just yards from their front doors.

It's also just 15ft away from a long row of trees that separates the site from homes on Finvoy Street.

Terraced houses in Chobham Street, off the Newtownards Road in east Belfast, and an adjacent community centre had already been boarded up by early morning.

So too had properties on Lena Street and Finvoy Street, while contractors were continuing to put up fire resistant panels on houses at Beechwood Avenue in the afternoon.

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Homes evacuated, others boarded up, as hour of the 'towering inferno' looms 

Soon, the only light getting into the 50-plus dwellings in the so-called "area of concern" was through the front doors, and tomorrow night they will be completely in the dark as scores of boards were left lying against the walls outside to be fitted to the aforementioned doors after the bonfire has been set alight.

The fires are an eleventh night tradition ahead of the Twelfth of July high-point of Northern Ireland's traditional marching season.

A bonfire has been lit on the site for many years, but this summer it is much larger than before.

That's because a play park is being constructed on the site in the coming months, so this one will be the last.

Complaints that it is dangerously close to residential and community properties seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

Councillor Jim Rodgers, born and bred in the area, has been trying to remind people that this is a holiday period.

"It shouldn't be a worrying time for anyone, this is a time for celebration and festivity," he said.

But, yesterday, despite the good weather, all that was etched on the faces of residents was worry.

And, as one woman put it, "We hope we don't find ourselves caught up in a towering inferno."

Belfast Telegraph


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