How much do Twelfth bonfires cost the Fire Service?

The spiralling cost to the Fire Service of tackling dangerous bonfires built ahead of the Twelfth of July is revealed in new figures.

The Twelfth is a celebration held on 12 July by the Orange Order, a Protestant fraternal organisation originating in late 18th century Ulster. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant king William of Orange over Catholic king James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690), which began the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland.

On and around the Twelfth, large parades are held by the Orange Order and Ulster loyalist marching bands, streets are bedecked with British flags and bunting, and large towering bonfires are lit.

Today the Twelfth is mainly celebrated in Northern Ireland, where it is a public holiday, but smaller celebrations are held in other parts of the world where Orange lodges have been set up, including the Canadian province of Newfoundland where it is a provincial holiday. The Twelfth involves thousands of participants and spectators, although not all Protestants celebrate it.

In total the Fire Service has had to spend £667,159 of taxpayer funds tackling Eleventh Night bonfires between 2010 and 2015.

Fire crews were called out to 250 bonfire-related incidents over the period, according to the latest figures obtained by The Irish News.

It comes amid increased concerns over bonfires constructed ahead of July 12.

Last year several families were forced out of their homes and their windows had to be boarded up due to the sheer heat from a towering 50ft bonfire built yards from houses on Chobham Street in east Belfast.

And this year swings and a climbing frame were removed from a playground next to the area’s Comber Greenway because of the dangers posed by an Eleventh Night bonfire.

The latest spending details were obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

The number of call-outs and cost of tackling bonfires over the Twelfth peaked in 2013 with 53 incidents and a spend of £174,037.

Last year a total of 24 call-outs were recorded at a cost of £78,365 for the period from 6pm on July 11 to 4.50am on July 12 last year.

However, the number of call-outs jumped to 52 when spanning the 14-hour period from 6pm on July 11 to 1am on July 12 as well as 6pm on July 12 to 1am July 13.

From 2010 to 2014 fire crews also received a further 49 calls about bonfires that did not require crews to attend.