Video: Call for calm as Northern Ireland bonfire material set on fire
There have been calls for calm after material for a Northern Ireland Eleventh night bonfire was set on fire.
Firefighters attended the blaze on Monday morning in the Sandy Row area of south Belfast. The Fire Service said a large number of pallets had been set alight at the Wellwood Street site.
Around the time the fire was started someone on a bike was seen fleeing the scene.
Firefighters were on the scene for just over 30 minutes and the incident is being treated as deliberate.
MLA Christopher Stalford called for calm in the area saying those responsible for the fire may have come into the area in a bid to raise tensions.
"I would be astounded if those building it were responsible," the DUP representative said.
"From my perspective the important thing is we are 25 days away from the Eleventh and it is important this site is well-managed and not just in terms of wood but also in terms of scale. Hopefully this won't happen again."
He added: "The people which did this need to be aware when fire crews are attending to this situation they are not able to attend other situations and obviously that puts a strain on other resources. They clearly took no thought to what they were doing.
"It is not in anyone's interest for tensions to be raised - I don't know what the motivation was but if they were coming in from outside their intention was to raise tensions and I would appeal for calm."
Last year the bonfire was the scene of controversy after it was placed too close to neighbouring apartments forcing the Fire Service to douse the building in water to prevent damage. Despite their efforts windows were smashed by the heat and the building's exterior damaged.
Mr Stalford added: "Since last year there have been conversations among the community over what happened last year in a bid to prevent it recurring and hopefully we will see that.
"There has been a lot of work over the past 11 months to improve the situation and I would hope to see that deliver results on the Eleventh night."
Police are investigating Monday's incident.
Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: “Police received a call from our NIFRS colleagues about a number of wooden pallets which had been set on fire at Wellwood Street earlier today. Local police attended and are making inquiries.”
A Fire Service spokeswoman added: "The cause of the fire appears to be deliberate."
Belfast Telegraph Digital