Think safety first on bonfire night

FIRE service call-outs to bonfire-related incidents across Northern Ireland rose to 49 last year, up 23 from the previous year.

Following the release of the figures the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has warned people to put safety first ahead of this month’s celebrations.

NIFRS is appealing to the public to follow its safety advice to ensure bonfires don’t get out of control. NIFRS also wants to remind everyone that if Firefighters respond to an emergency call out in the vicinity of a bonfire, it’s because someone in the area is concerned about the bonfire getting out of control. Firefighters are not out to spoil anyone’s fun, their job is to protect life and property from the dangers of fire.

Dale Ashford, Assistant Chief Fire Officer Safety Services, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service said, “Operationally the 11th night last year was busier for us than the same night during previous years with Fire Crews attending 23 more bonfire related incidents compared to the same night in 2010. Our operational response to these types of incidents was further challenged by a few reckless members of the community that attacked our Firefighters, damaging our Fire Appliances and slightly injuring one of our Firefighters.

“Thankfully attacks on our Firefighters are declining year on year and although these were isolated incidents I am asking the community for their support to ensure that Firefighters are able to carry out their job without fear of attack or harassment.

Firefighters have a job to do to protect the local community and if they are called out to attend a bonfire that is out of control, they are responding because someone in that area is concerned. Remember your Fire & Rescue Service is here to protect life and property and not to spoil anyone’s fun.”

“We play a central role in protecting our community and we want people to be safe, act responsible and use their 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. The bonfire should not contain any potentially hazardous material and never use flammable liquids such as petrol or paraffin, as these can produce explosive vapours. Remember should your bonfire get out of control call 999 immediately and ask for the Fire & rescue Service.”

The following safety advice, provided by NIFRS should be applied for anyone building or attending bonfires: Site the bonfire well away from houses, garages, sheds, fences, overhead cables, trees and shrubs; As a guide allow a ratio of 1:5, i.e. 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 den inside the 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.