Relocated Belfast bonfire still threat to our homes, say fearful residents
Residents close to a controversial east Belfast bonfire say they fear their homes could be destroyed when it is set alight on the Eleventh Night.
Those living near Bloomfield Walkway fear a repeat of an incident in 2015 when around 50 residents in nearby Chobham Street were forced to leave and their homes boarded up because of fears over the pyre.
This year bonfire builders relocated it to a site further along the walkway, in what organisers claim is a more suitable location.
However, a number of locals have questioned this.
In response to concerns, roughly half of the pallets were taken away last Saturday in a move confirmed by the East Belfast Community Initiative (EBCI) group.
However, photos taken yesterday morning showed the bonfire had been built up to its previous size again, prompting residents to voice their concerns.
The EBCI insisted yesterday the bonfire had been moved to the "safest available space" in what it described as a "positive and proactive measure" carried out in response to "genuine community concerns".
As a result, the bonfire was "substantially reduced in size from last year", said a group spokesman.
He added: "We have worked tirelessly to deliver positive solutions and to ensure a peaceful and enjoyable July for all. It is our hope that will be the outcome."
However, some locals remain fearful, with one saying they are distraught at the prospect of their home being damaged.
"I'm really concerned my house is going to burn down," explained the householder, who did not wish to be identified. The householder added that their concerns were being ignored by the authorities, including Belfast City Council - an accusation it strongly refuted.
Another resident, who also declined to be named, said those living in the area were facing an "absolutely awful" situation next Wednesday night.
"I've spoken to councillors and the Fire Service and they've looked at me blankly and said that there's nothing they can do," they said.
In response, the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it was not within its remit to "identity bonfire locations", nor did it have the enforcement power to determine bonfire sizes and locations.
It confirmed that advice had been issued by personnel when they met bonfire builders last year.
"Advice was provided that the proposed relocation on the Bloomfield Walkway site may reduce the impact of radiant heat on nearby properties," it said.
"Our bonfire safety advice does not guarantee a completely safe bonfire, but it will help reduce the potential risk to communities, properties and the environment."
Belfast City Council said it was aware of residents' concerns and stressed a resolution remains with its elected members who it would continue to work with, along with other stakeholders.
"A member-led decision-making process has been agreed to consider issues and make decisions on a site-by-site basis," the council added.
Meanwhile, there was anger in Coleraine's Ballysally estate yesterday as a bonfire was deliberately set alight for the second time in the space of weeks.
Two fire crews were called to the scene just after 2pm and the blaze was put out less than an hour later.