Sharp fall in number of bonfire call-outs

THE number of emergency call-outs prompted by bonfires has dropped dramatically from hundreds in recent years to just two on the Eleventh night.

This reduction represents an estimated saving of almost 500,000 from the Eleventh night in 2007, when the fire service received more than 200 call-outs relating to bonfires.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said that it received 33 calls between 9pm and midnight on July 12 and responded to 21 incidents.

But of these calls, just two related to bonfires and neither incident required action to be taken by fire crews.

Comparatively, the service received 80 calls in 2009 relating to bonfires while in 2007 the NIFRS received 200 emergency call-outs to bonfires.

Assistant chief fire officer Peter Craig welcomed the reduction.

He said the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has been running education programmes working with primary school children as well as community groups to make people aware of the potential dangers of fire.

"It all comes down to the fact that the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service has worked hard to engage with the local community about the dangers they are putting the community in unless they take the dangers of bonfires seriously," he said.

"Every time a fire engine goes out, there is an average cost of 2,000.

"It really is pleasing that community responsibility appeals are making a real difference," he said.

Meanwhile, local councils across Northern Ireland were also working to ensure a safer bonfire night.

David Robinson, good relations officer with Belfast City Council, ran a bonfire management programme which brought community groups together with statutory agencies such as the fire services and Environment Agency.

He welcomed the big improvement and said they hoped to build on it for next year.

There were an estimated 80 bonfires in Belfast this year. Mr Robinson worked with 42 of them and said he hopes to work with more next year.

"I think the key thing this year is that we brought together a number of bonfire groups from all over the city with statutory agencies and landowners such as the Housing Executive and the city council," he said.

"One of the key criteria was the 1:5 ratio - for every metre high the bonfire is, it must be five metres from the nearest property."