Fire service and community leaders’ plea over Belfast bonfire tyres

The bonfire in the Ballybeen estate in Dundonald
The bonfire in the Ballybeen estate in Dundonald

Firefighters and community representatives have urged bonfire builders not to burn tyres after a number of sites in east Belfast took delivery of the potentially toxic material.

The appeals come after a tipper lorry was photographed dumping a large number of tyres at bonfire in Ballybeen earlier this week, with others appearing at sites in Cregagh and Avoniel.

In a plea issued on social media yesterday, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue said: “We are appealing for bonfire builders to stop using tyres on bonfires”.

Hazel Legge, an Ulster Unionist councillor for Castlereagh East, said she had concerns over the Ballybeen situation.

“I have been in touch with both the housing executive (NIHE) and council officials to highlight the problem and ask if anything can be done. I think the residents are quite right to be concerned about it as well. It’s not the situation we would want there,” Cllr Legge added.

Alliance councillor Michael Long said it “beggars belief” that bonfire builders would risk the health of people in their own communities by burning tyres.

“I think it is a major retrograde step. In recent years there hasn’t been a problem with tyres because people recognised the environmental damage, but now we’re back to square one.”

A NIHE spokesman said; “We condemn the dumping of tyres on our land, which has just been brought to our attention. Bonfires are traditional events and we work with and support communities to embrace cultural celebrations in a way that is non-threatening.”

He added: “We will continue to work with local communities, as well as the council, PSNI, NI Fire Service and other agencies to minimize the impact of bonfires.”

A spokeswoman for Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council said “The bonfire in Ballybeen is on land which belongs to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive. The council has been in touch with the NIHE to raise the issue of the tyres at the site and to request the matter is investigated with actions determined.

“The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has also been contacted by the council regarding the nature and volume of the bonfire material.”

It is understood the tyres at the Avoniel site have since been removed.