Bonfires cause an ‘exceptionally busy’ weekend for firefighters

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said it dealt with a “significant increase” in emergency calls to bonfire-related incidents this year.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 8:14 am
Updated Monday, 12th July 2021, 8:25 am
Tiger's Bay 'Eleventh Night' bonfire in Belfast alight in the early hours of Monday morning. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Tiger's Bay 'Eleventh Night' bonfire in Belfast alight in the early hours of Monday morning. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

More than 230 Eleventh Night bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland between Friday and Sunday nights.

The bonfires precede the Twelfth of July parades, the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season.

While the NIFRS said it was “exceptionally busy” over the weekend, it also confirmed there were no attacks on fire service personnel.

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The NIFRS said firefighters had been required to take direct action to protect properties from heat caused by bonfires.

A spokesman said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service has dealt with a significant increase in emergency calls and mobilisations to bonfire related incidents over July 9, 10 and 11 July.”

Between 6pm on Friday night and 2am on Saturday morning the service received 54 calls and was sent to 40 incidents, including seven bonfire-related incidents.

Between 6pm on Saturday night and 2am on Sunday morning it received 171 calls and was sent to 99 incidents, including 34 bonfire-related incidents.

The same figures for 6pm on Sunday to 2am on Monday were 153 calls, 150 mobilisations of which 40 were bonfire-related.

This means that over the weekend there were a total of 378 calls and 244 mobilisations, 81 dealing with bonfire incidents.

A NIFRS spokesperson said: “Over the three nights this represents a significant increase in bonfire related incidents compared to 2020 when 24 bonfire related incidents occurred from 6pm to 1am on the night of July 11/12.

“The service was exceptionally busy on each of the three nights, with direct intervention required by NIFRS to protect properties from radiated heat, embers, etc. from the bonfires.

“Despite the increased demand of bonfire related incidents, NIFRS maintained emergency response cover across Northern Ireland through the use of contingency planning measures, enabling attendance to a range of operational incidents including property fires and other emergency incidents.

“NIFRS can confirm there were no attacks on fire service personnel or appliances at any bonfire related incidents.”

There were more than 160 bonfires lit across Northern Ireland on Sunday night alone.

These included the contentious bonfire at Adam Street in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay area of north Belfast, which is adjacent to the nationalist New Lodge area.

The bonfire had attracted controversy as nationalist and republican politicians had claimed that the homes of New Lodge residents had come under attack from bonfire builders.

But unionist politicians rejected this, stating the bonfire was a legitimate expression of their culture, and accused nationalist political leaders of raising tensions.

The bonfire was ignited with an Irish tricolour flag on top.

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