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Fire Service ‘stay safe and act responsible’ message building and attending bonfires

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is urging people to act responsibly and to stay safe when building or attending bonfires.

Last year, Firefighters attended 24 bonfire related incidents on the 11th night (6pm 11 July – 8am 12 July), which is 27 less bonfire related incidents attended on the same night in 2014.

NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer Alan Walmsley said: “Firstly, it is very encouraging that Firefighters dealt with a 53% reduction in the number of bonfire related incidents compared to 12 months previously. I must commend the continued engagement at local level between community leaders and NIFRS personnel in helping to decrease the number of bonfire related incidents across Northern Ireland.

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

“Our advice is that bonfires should be kept at a manageable size and sited in a clear, open space at 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 and never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin as these can produce explosive vapours.

“We would appeal to the bonfire builders and community representatives to stop using tyres on bonfires. The burning of tyres releases toxic fumes, which are harmful to the environment and also cause hazardous health conditions for those attending or living close to the bonfire.

“We are working closely with our statutory partner agencies including Police Service of Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency to help keep people safe when attending bonfires.”

NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire Officer Walmsley added: “If you are attending a bonfire on the 11th night and see your local firefighters, it’s because someone in the area is concerned and has contacted us for help. 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.

“If your bonfire gets out of control, call 999 immediately and ask for the Fire & Rescue Service.”

For anyone building a bonfire or attending bonfires, the advice is:

  • Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs;
  • As a guide, allow a ratio of 1:5 ie – the distance from the bonfire to the nearest property should be 5 times the height of the bonfire
  • 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, a garden hose 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

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