Put safety first when bonfire building - call

Ballykeel 1 bonfire. INBT27-250AC
Ballykeel 1 bonfire. INBT27-250AC

Bonfires in Ballymena could be promoted as models of good practice to creators of such structures elsewhere in Mid & East Antrim.

That’s the view of Ballymena Ulster Unionist Councillor Stephen Nicholl who said successful local community engagement on the issue had proved effective.

He said: “Councillors are well aware of the health risks arising from the burning of tyres and the most productive way of addressing the issue is by working closely with the local community.”

He pointed out that while councillors were advised at a recent Council committee meeting in Carrifergus of a substantial number of tyres being dumped at sites in East Antrim, “sites in Ballymena such as the Doury Road, Ballykeel and Harryville have all seen effective community responses which maintain the culture and tradition of bonfires in a safe and manageable way.”

Cllr Nicholl said: “Working with local communities in East Antrim and facilitating engagement with community leaders from Ballymena who have given leadership in this issue will be the most effective way to bring about change.

“Such action should be supported by the council who have a short term responsibility to ensure that, in communities where a significant numbers of tyres are being collected, appropriate information on the health risks from burning tyres is circulated to the wider community,” Cllr Nicholl said.

Yesterday (Monday), Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) issued an appeal to people to act responsibly and stay safe when building or attending bonfires.

Last year, Fire Crews attended 44 bonfire related incidents on the 11th night, 10 fewer incidents than the previous year.

Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said: “Operationally the 11th night last year (2014) was quieter for us than the same night in 2013.

“We play a central role in protecting our community and we want people to be safe, act responsibly and use common sense when building and attending bonfires.

“Bonfires can easily get out of control if they are not built safely and properly supervised.

“Bonfires should be kept to a manageable size and sited in a clear, open space, at a safe distance from buildings and overhead cables. As a rule of thumb the bonfire should be a minimum distance of five times its height from property. It should not contain any potentially hazardous materials or tyres and never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin, as these can produce explosive vapours.

“Firefighters are not out to spoil anyone’s fun – their job is to protect life and property from the dangers of fire.

“I’m asking the local community for their support to ensure that Firefighters are able to carry out their job without fear of attack or harassment,” said Mr Walmsley, adding: “Remember, should your bonfire get out of control call 999 immediately and ask for the Fire & Rescue Service.”