The Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service have issued advice ahead of the 11th night bonfire celebrations, urging anyone attending bonfires to follow fire safety advice and act responsibly to stay safe.

The NIFRS revealed that in 2018, their Firefighters attended 57 bonfire and other related incidents on the 11th July, which was 1 more than in 2017. The highest number of bonfire related calls on the 11th night in the past 3 years.

The NIFRS have issued the following safety advice:

  • Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs
  • Bonfires should be kept to a manageable size
  • As a guide, allow a ratio of 1:5. The bonfire should be a minimum of 5 times the height from property e.g. if the bonfire is 10 metres tall, it should be at least 50 metres from the nearest property.
  • Build the stack so that it is stable and will not collapse
  • Never build a hut or a den inside a bonfire
  • Do not burn foam-filled furniture, tyres, aerosols, tins of paint or bottles
  • Responsible adults should look after lighting the bonfire. Before lighting the fire, check that no children or pets are hiding inside it
  • Never use flammable liquids (petrol or paraffin) to light the fire – use domestic firelighters
  • Keep everyone away from the fire – especially children who must be supervised at all times
  • For an emergency keep buckets of water or a fire extinguisher ready
  • At any sign of danger or in the event of an emergency ring Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service on 999 for assistance

Speaking about the safety advice, Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Director Service Delivery says,

“The 11th July has the potential to be one of our busiest nights of the year.  We are urging those who build bonfires and community representatives to listen to our safety advice to minimise the risks to ensure people remain safe.

“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.

“We want to remind the public that we do not have enforcement power in relation to the size and location of bonfires – the ultimate responsibility, including any risk assessment, lies with the landowner on which the bonfire is built.  We do not risk assess bonfires. There is no such thing as a completely safe bonfire. Bonfires can pose a very real risk to public safety and property.

“Firefighters will be attending bonfire incidents on the 11th night to protect life and property from the dangers of fire.  I’m appealing to the local community for their support to ensure that Firefighters are able to carry out their job without fear of attack or potential harassment.

“Last year, we received a total of 327 emergency calls on the 11th night, between 6pm and 1am and our crews were mobilised to 164 operational incidents.  In addition to the 57 bonfire related incidents, Firefighters attended a range of emergency incidents including house fires and other specialist service calls. It was an exceptionally busy time for our Regional Control Centre personnel who handled emergency 999 calls every 48 seconds between 10pm and midnight.

“I would like to reassure the community that our well-rehearsed contingency plans are in place and our Command Room will be operational to ensure that we maintain emergency cover across Northern Ireland.”

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