Fire service deals with 'significant increase' in calls on Eleventh Night

More than 230 Eleventh Night bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland between Friday and Sunday nights. Credit: PA

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said it dealt with a “significant increase” in emergency calls to bonfire-related incidents this year.

More than 230 Eleventh Night bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland between Friday and Sunday nights.

The bonfires precede the Twelfth of July parades, the main date in the Protestant loyal order parading season.

A fire fighter dampens down his own truck due to extreme temperatures as a huge bonfire in Craigyhill, Larne, is lit. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Meanwhile, a man sustained burn injuries to his face and body after an incident at a bonfire in Silverstream Gardens in north Belfast at around 12:30am on Monday. He is being treated in hospital for his injuries.

While the NIFRS said it was “exceptionally busy” over the weekend, it also confirmed there were no attacks on fire service personnel.

The NIFRS said firefighters had been required to take direct action to protect properties from heat caused by bonfires.

A spokesman said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service has dealt with a significant increase in emergency calls and mobilisations to bonfire related incidents over July 9, 10 and 11 July.”

The bonfire in Craigyhill, Larne, is lit on the “Eleventh night” to usher in the Twelfth commemorations. Credit: Niall Carson/PA

Between 6pm on Friday night and 2am on Saturday morning the service received 54 calls and was sent to 40 incidents, including seven bonfire-related incidents.

Between 6pm on Saturday night and 2am on Sunday morning it received 171 calls and was sent to 99 incidents, including 34 bonfire-related incidents.

The same figures for 6pm on Sunday to 2am on Monday were 153 calls, 150 mobilisations of which 40 were bonfire-related.

Tiger’s Bay ‘Eleventh Night’ bonfire in Belfast alight in the early hours of Monday morning Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

This means that over the weekend there were a total of 378 calls and 244 mobilisations, 81 dealing with bonfire incidents.

A NIFRS spokesperson said: “Over the three nights this represents a significant increase in bonfire related incidents compared to 2020 when 24 bonfire related incidents occurred from 6pm to 1am on the night of July 11/12.

“The service was exceptionally busy on each of the three nights, with direct intervention required by NIFRS to protect properties from radiated heat, embers, etc. from the bonfires.

“Despite the increased demand of bonfire related incidents, NIFRS maintained emergency response cover across Northern Ireland through the use of contingency planning measures, enabling attendance to a range of operational incidents including property fires and other emergency incidents.

“NIFRS can confirm there were no attacks on fire service personnel or appliances at any bonfire related incidents.”

Fire fighters dampen down nearby properties as a bonfire in Craigyhill, Larne, to usher in the Twelfth commemorations Credit: Niall Carson/PA

There were more than 160 bonfires lit across Northern Ireland on Sunday night alone.

These included the contentious bonfire at Adam Street in the loyalist Tiger’s Bay area of north Belfast, which is adjacent to the nationalist New Lodge area.

The bonfire had attracted controversy as nationalist and republican politicians had claimed that the homes of New Lodge residents had come under attack from bonfire builders.

But unionist politicians rejected this, stating the bonfire was a legitimate expression of their culture, and accused nationalist political leaders of raising tensions.

The bonfire was ignited with an Irish tricolour flag on top.

The bonfire was ignited with an Irish tricolour flag on top. Credit: PA

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson condemned the burning of Irish tricolour flags on a number of "Eleventh Night" bonfires.

Sir Jeffrey said: "I don't want to see election posters or flags burnt on bonfires. I think we can celebrate our culture and our tradition in a respectful way.

"Respect is a two-way street; if you want to gain respect for your traditions and culture you've got to show respect for the traditions, culture and symbols of other communities."

Sir Jeffrey said work needed to continue to address safety issues around the size of some of the bonfires.

"I think we need to continue working with those who organise bonfires to look at safety issues and to look at the height of bonfires, where they are located. In the end, public safety is absolutely paramount when it comes to this."