Bonfire materials piling up at Meenan Square

Pallets and other rubbish being gathered in the Meenan Square area on Wednesday.
Pallets and other rubbish being gathered in the Meenan Square area on Wednesday.
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Youths have been storing pallets and other bonfire materials at Meenan Square despite warnings about the potential for an explosion at the site.

Dozens of wooden pallets and old furniture and other debris was this week being amassed at the site.

Sign to dump wood for bonfire at the bottom of the flyover in the Bogside. DER3216GS027

Sign to dump wood for bonfire at the bottom of the flyover in the Bogside. DER3216GS027

The August 15th bonfire in the Bogside was last year moved to a location below the City Walls due to concerns over safety.

Efforts have been made to try and prevent materials being gathered prior to this summer, but materials are still being gathered next to derelict buildings and an electricity substation.

A sign was also been erected at the bottom of the Lecky Road flyover this week, with the words ‘Dump Wood’ painted on it and an arrow pointing towards the debris gathered so far.

A challenge to authorities has also been written on the wall of one of the derelict buildings stating: ‘Take wood if you dare’.

A recent survey by the Housing Executive in Derry revealed that 86% of residents in the Bogside area were against having a bonfire in the area near their homes, and two thirds of those polled were against having a bonfire, regardless of location.

Back in April, a warning was issued that hosting the August 15th bonfires at Meenan Square is so dangerous it has the potential to trigger a major explosion at the nearby electrical substation.

Fire & Rescue Western Area Commander Mark Deeney said at the time that efforts must be redoubled to ensure any future bonfires are held in a different location, as the cocktail of 11,000 volts of electricity, 1,300 litres of oil stored in a cylinder and sulphur hexaflouride gas in the substation could have major consequences for residents and those organising and attending the bonfire.

Speaking before Derry & Strabane Council’s Health and Community Committee back in April, Mr. Deeney said: “If fire got into the roof of that building it would be very difficult to deal with it. With the presence of the oil and gas there is the hazard of an explosion there.”

He added that in such an instance, fire-fighters would have to evacuate residents and their own personnel to a safe distance, adding that they could not put water on a live electrical fire.

“I don’t want to exaggerate the risk here, but this is a very real risk,” he claimed. “If we can’t fight it, that fire will be burning for several days.”

He said that as well as the substation, there was also a risk of fire spreading to the adjacent three-storey homes at Durrow Park.

The cost of replacing the substation meanwhile would be £60,000.