Belfast Telegraph

No risk assessments and no such thing as safe bonfire, says Fire Service

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The Fire Service has confirmed it does not carry out risk assessments of any bonfires in Northern Ireland and there is "no such thing as a safe bonfire".

Belfast City Council could potentially take further action against a bonfire located in a car park of its Avoniel Leisure Centre.

Sinn Fein has said it remains a danger whereas representatives of the bonfire builders say it is now safe.

There are also talks ongoing in Portadown over the location of a bonfire close to homes. The South Ulster Housing Association wrote to residents in the Corcrain Drive/Redmanville area offering alternative accommodation for a night in the Armagh City Youth Hostel.

The association said the safety of its residents was "paramount" and was taking the advice of the Fire Service seriously. It is working with the authorities to protect people and property.

In a statement a spokeswoman for the Fire Service said: "We do not have any statutory duty or legislative powers to risk assess or carry out a regulatory inspection programme of bonfire sites on behalf of individuals, organisations or statutory agencies.  Therefore we have not risk assessed the Corcrain bonfire or any other bonfires in Northern Ireland.

“However, we will continue to engage with local communities, statutory agencies and elected representatives to provide our bonfire safety advice which has remained consistent over a number of years.

“The ultimate responsibility lies with the landowner on which the bonfire is built.  NIFRS has no enforcement power in relation to the size and location of bonfires.

"There is no such thing as a completely safe bonfire. Bonfires can pose a very real risk to public safety and property. We would urge anyone building or attending bonfires to follow fire safety advice and act responsibly to stay safe.”

The Fire Service also appealed to anyone attending bonfires to "act responsibly and to stay safe" as it prepares for another year.

The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne
The Craigyhill bonfire in Larne
The Avoniel bonfire

Last year firefighters attended 57 bonfire related incidents between the hours of 6pm and 1am, one more than in 2017. This was the highest number bonfire related calls on the Eleventh night for the past three years.

Alan Walmsley, assistant chief fire and rescue officer continued: "Bonfires should be kept at a manageable size and sited in a clear, open space and a safe distance from buildings and overhead cables.

"A bonfire should be a minimum distance of five times its height from property. It should not contain any potentially hazardous materials or tyres which release toxic fumes as these are harmful to the environment and can also contribute towards health conditions for those attending or living close to the bonfire.

“The safety of the public and our Firefighters is top priority and we have been working closely and proactively with local communities, statutory agencies and elected representatives in an effort to reduce the number of bonfire related incidents to help ensure public safety.

“We are asking those building and attending bonfires to think safety first. Our safety advice, if adhered to, will help to reduce the potential risks to communities, properties and the environment."

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