Loyalist bonfires using 'tractor tyres' says Fire Service Belfast inspection reports
LOYALIST bonfires in Belfast are using tractor tyres and cable reels, according to fire service site inspection reports which expose the scale of safety concerns.
Firefighters recorded towering pyres posing a risk to houses and playparks as well as arterial routes in last summer's inspections reports obtained by The Irish News.
In one case, a "gas cylinder within the wood" on a fire at a north Belfast site led to emergency crews being called.
The reports also reveal concerns were raised last year about a "large quantity" of tyres at the south Belfast site where on Sunday council contractors flanked by police removed 1,800 tyres.
Crews recorded that the bonfire at Lismore Street last July was up to 20 metres (65ft) tall "with around another 100 pallets waiting to go on", and warned it was near "trees and vegetation".
Almost 60 inspection reports of loyalist bonfires were compiled last year, according to Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) papers obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Crews attend bonfires across Belfast several times in the weeks running up to the Eleventh Night and complete forms called 'bonfire inspection/site visit reports'.
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The single-page forms collate details including the bonfire's location, the date and time it was visited; the materials on the bonfire; any property or utilities impacted; and whether bonfire builders were spoken to.
However, the fire service insists these do not amount to formal risk assessments, and are instead used to examine how crews should respond to potential issues.
At a site in the Village area, at Milner Street beside the Westlink, firefighters recorded "in excess of 700 pallets, wood and quantity of tractor tyres" on a bonfire with a 40ft base.
They also noted an issue in relation to its location near motorway road signs and "possible smoke travel across the Westlink".
At a site beside Mount Vernon Road in north Belfast, crews recorded a bonfire using a "large quantity of wood, pallets, cable reels and general refuse", noting that the Housing Executive "used a digger to push material into a large pile".
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"Recent fire call to this location involved a gas cylinder within the wood on fire," the report added.
The use of cable reels – large spools used to carry various types of wires – was also noted at a bonfire site at Forthriver Crescent.
At Grays Park in south Belfast, a resident raised concerns about a bonfire which crews noted was "set on level ground which has an incline to neighbouring properties".
Concerns over "proximity of houses" was noted for a bonfire site at Black Mountain Parade, and "potential damage to houses" near a site in Ballybeen.
At Bloomfield in east, crews warned of the bonfire being near houses on two sides and "trees 10ft from bonfire in danger".
For a site at Seymour Hill, fire crews also noted "trees closeby and overhead wires".
In west Belfast at Boundary Walk, fire crews noted that a manager of a nearby KFC fast food outlet said their sign "will not be removed this year on cost grounds".
NIFRS has previously stressed it "does not have any enforcement powers in relation to bonfires" and the "ultimate responsibility" lies with landowners.
Bonfire safety advice by NIFRS recommends that the distance of a bonfire to the nearest property should be five times the pyre's height.