In Northern Ireland, the Eleventh Night or 11th Night refers to the night before the Twelfth of July, a yearly Ulster Protestant celebration.
On this night, large towering bonfires are lit in many Protestant unionist neighbourhoods in Northern Ireland. The bonfires are mostly made up of wooden pallets and tires, with some reaching over 100 ft tall. Last year, fire crews attended 44 bonfire related incidents between 6pm on 11 July and 8am on 12 July.
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 with Fire Crews attending 10 less bonfire-related incidents.
“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 and in recent weeks and months we have been working hard with local communities and other statutory agencies to provide our bonfire safety advice.
“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. I also want to remind people attending bonfires on the 11th night that if you see your local Firefighters it’s because someone in that 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.”
NIFRS have also created safety advice to ensure bonfires don’t get out of control, 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.
Further bonfire safety advice can be found at www.nifrs.org/fire-safety/bonfire-safety-advice/.