Great Britain

Emergency services preparing for 'very different' Bonfire season

EMERGENCY services are planning for a “very different” Bonfire season in West Yorkshire - with Covid restrictions likely leading to the cancellation of most official celebrations.

Top officers on West Yorkshire Fire Service believe that due to these cancellations, celebrations are likely to be smaller scale - but also less controlled and potentially more dangerous.

Members of West Yorkshire Fire Authority were being given an update on the fire service’s recent performance at a meeting yesterday when the issue was raised.

The data they were provided was from the lockdown period, and Deputy Chief Fire Officer Dave Walton said the types of incident fire fighters were called to had changed in recent months.

Although there had been a drop in house fires, and suspected arson attacks on buildings, the number of secondary arsons, which involve grass/plans or waste, has remained high since lockdown began.

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The service responded to 2,442 such incidents since April.

Mr Walton said this was due to dry, warm weather during lockdown and the fact that most young people were out of school for months at a time.

He said: “Arson and secondary fires are up which is unsurprising with the schools being closed for so long. It could have been much worse considering the circumstances.

“I’d like to think enhanced campaigning by our staff had a positive effect.”

Usually at this time of year the service is preparing for the Halloween/Bonfire night season, which usually sees a huge spike in unauthorised bonfires, anti social firework use and attacks on fire crews.

Recent years have seen campaigns urging people to act sensibly over the period, and only attend large, organised events.

However, the meeting was told that with most official bonfires and fireworks displays likely to be cancelled this year due to lockdown measures, 2020 was shaping up to different from previous years.

He said: “We are expecting a very different type of Bonfire night this year. Many, if not all, organised displays won’t be able to take place, so we are expecting a prevalence of bonfires on smaller sites like in people’s back gardens and an increase in firework use by those who aren’t used to hosting events or firework safety.

“We have already started dialogue with the police and NHS on how we will tackle this.”

There had also been a near 10 per cent increase in call outs to false alarms since April. Members heard that in normal circumstances, officers would attempt to contact businesses or building owners to determine if a fire alarm was genuine or not before sending an engine out. However, due to many buildings and offices being unoccupied during lockdown firefighters were not unable to determine if an alarm was genuine or not until crews had already been deployed to the building.

Due to a big drop in the amount of traffic on West Yorkshire’s roads over lockdown there has, expectedly, been a drop in car accidents the force has been called out to - a fall of 41.8 per cent.

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