Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Bonfire makers must use common sense

Editor's Viewpoint

With disputes over parades now largely solved, bonfires have become a focus of contention in some areas. Tomorrow night, hundreds of bonfires will be lit as part of the Eleventh Night and wider Twelfth celebrations. The vast majority of those pyres will burn out without inflaming anyone, but there are a very small number which cause a threat to property and lives.

While acknowledging that bonfires are a traditional part of Protestant culture and are widely welcomed within that section of society, like everything else they must be sited and built responsibly and should adhere to regulations banning toxic materials.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service monitors bonfire building and works closely with local communities and bonfire builders, giving safety advice.

While the NIFRS has no statutory powers to limit the size of bonfires or to determine their location, it is common sense that advice given by the service or other statutory agencies should be heeded.

That does not seem to have happened at two bonfires which we report on today. One, at Bloomfield walkway in east Belfast, is said to be too high and poses a threat to property. Another, in Newtownards, is built beside an electricity sub-station. Damage to the facility could leave thousands of homes without power.

Problems like this occur on an annual basis. The offending bonfires may be small in number, but have the potential to cause serious problems.

Last year a block of flats in the Sandy Row area of Belfast was severely damaged by heat from a huge bonfire.

That was sheer recklessness and responsibility for any damage to property or injuries lies squarely with the bonfire builders.

The problem is that despite the best efforts of local authorities and other statutory agencies - including funding for those who adhere to agreed rules - some bonfire builders appear intent on confrontation rather than consensus.

In the last five years, fire crews have been called out to 1,809 bonfires, a big drain on the organisation's resources and also leaving cover for other emergencies thin on the ground.

It is time that the small number of contentious bonfires are dealt with properly.

They are not an expression of culture but a threat to property and life and local people should join with statutory agencies to ensure they adhere to common sense rules.

Belfast Telegraph

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