Northern Ireland

Fire service: Heatwave may make Eleventh night 'very busy'

Bangor bonfire
Image caption Firefighters have been talking to bonfire builders to pass on safety advice

Dry conditions and the increased pressure on firefighters are likely to make the Eleventh night particularly difficult, the fire service has warned.

Firefighters have dealt with 1,000 gorse fires in Northern Ireland in the last 10 days.

Assistant chief fire and rescue officer Alan Walmsley said as a result the service had been under increased pressure.

He said this could lead to an even more challenging Eleventh night than usual.

Belfast City Council has said that a bonfire at the Bloomfield Walkway in the east of the city has been measured as "not being at a safe height acceptable to be within the guidelines" of the Fire Service.

In a statement released on Monday evening, members of the council's strategic policy and resources committee said: "We would make a final plea to the bonfire builders to remove the surplus material so as to reduce the threat to property.

"However, we recognise that the land on which the bonfire is built, is owned by the Department for Infrastructure and so it is their responsibility.

"If there is not a satisfactory resolution in the time remaining, the council calls upon the Department for Infrastructure to take all measures possible to reduce the potential damage to local properties," the council committee added.

Bonfires are traditionally lit in loyalist areas on 11 July, ahead of the Twelfth commemorations.

Mr Walmsley said firefighters have been talking to bonfire builders in the run-up to Wednesday night.

"The situation's different, hot embers can go anywhere, we've no control over what happens on the night, how strong the wind blows, what direction it is," he said.

"It will be a very busy night for us, so we're putting plans in place.

Image copyright Laurance Belton
Image caption The fire service has dealt with 1,000 gorse fires in 10 days

"We will never make a bonfire totally safe, we can never make it completely safe, there's too many unknowns."

Mr Walmsley said gorse fires by their nature are very resource intensive and are often in difficult, remote places.

He said an "awful lot" of the gorse fires had been started deliberately and fire crews have had a very busy period.

"So we're reaching out and saying to bonfire builders please listen out to our safety advice this year," he said.

"We're going through a period of increased pressure. Let's work together to try and ensure public safety this year."

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