Fire service requests to move pyre, amid safety fears, refused: report reveals

Posted By: June 11, 2018

Brendan Hughes. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, June 11, 2018

Loyalist bonfire builders refused a plea from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) to move a pyre away from gas mains, it can be revealed.

Eleventh Night bonfires were also built beside electricity substations, telephone junction boxes, and homes, inspection reports uncovered by The Irish News show.

The reports highlight the scale of safety concerns faced by firefighters over bonfires.

Crews attend sites across Belfast several times ahead of July 11.

They complete forms called ‘bonfire inspection/site visit reports,’ which collate details including the location, materials being collected and any property or utilities impacted.

The reports found:

* Gas supplies had to be shut off in one neighborhood after builders refused crews’ requests to move their pyre away from mains.

* A KFC in west Belfast considered removing guttering due to its close proximity to a bonfire.

*Issues were raised about some being built too close to oil tanks and asbestos roofing.

At Kitchener Street off Donegall Road, NIFRS attended a site with officials from Belfast City Council, local representatives, and Phoenix Gas.

“NIFRS asked them to move the bonfire to a safer site on a grass area away from gas mains and houses, but this was rejected,” the report said.

Crews also visited the bonfire site at Hope Street off Sandy Row where last year the pyre caused damage to an apartment block. They noted a “huge amount of pallets” and that the nearby Holiday Inn and other buildings, including the apartments, could be impacted.

A “possible oil tank” at the hotel and “possible asbestos roofing” at derelict properties on Sandy Row were also noted.

NIFRS said it did not have any enforcement powers in relation to bonfires.

“The ultimate responsibility for bonfires is with the landowner on whose land or property the bonfire is built,” it said.

Meanwhile, the number of bonfire groups signing up for council funding schemes has stagnated, new figures show.

In Belfast, the number of loyalist bonfire groups taking part has fallen for the third year running. It comes amid several groups publicly refusing to take part, accusing the scheme of aiming to “control culture and tradition”.