Houses evacuated after catching fire during Eleventh Night bonfires

Three Belfast homes damaged by blaze during parade season celebrations

shankill road, belfast

A bonfire is lit on the Shankill Road in Belfast | Photo: Niall Carson, PA Images

Terraced houses in the Shankill area of Belfast have been evacuated after catching fire during Eleventh Night celebrations. 

Bonfires were lit across Northern Ireland last night to usher in 12th of July festivities, the focal point of the loyalist parade season. 

Two homes close to the Hopewell Square blaze were gutted and another was “moderately” damaged when hot embers were blown onto a roof by the wind, the fire service said. 

A spokesperson for the service said 42 of 123 calls it received between 6pm and 1am were “bonfire-related”.

A completed bonfire in the Hopewell area in the Lower Shankill | Photo: Niall Carson, PA Images

The PSNI is on high alert today as thousands march in parades to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne.

The Orange Order has organised 18 demonstrations to mark William of Orange’s 1690 victory over James II.

The longest parade, in Belfast, will travel a six-mile route through the city and feature around 60 bands.

Northern Ireland’s first minister, deputy first minister and justice minister this week urged marchers and those taking part in protests to respect one another. 

"As we move into a period which has in the past resulted in heightened tensions, we encourage everyone to conduct themselves in a dignified and lawful way," Arlene Foster, Martin McGuinness and Claire Sugden said in a statement. 

While most bonfires and parades pass off without incident, violence and sectarian tensions have been sparked in some areas in recent years. 

Sinn Féin MLA John O’Dowd yesterday called on police to investigate the burning of his election posters at bonfires in Portadown. 

“The event as I understand was billed as a children’s fun day," he said. 

“It is totally unacceptable that these stolen posters appeared on the bonfire, especially in the context of an event which was supposed to be a children’s fun day, what message does the burning of images of elected representatives send out to children?

“Election material, poster and billboards belonging to all political parties should be treated with respect. 

“The posters burnt were stolen during the election campaign and were reported as such. This incident and the burning of posters and flags at the main bonfire later in the evening have been reported to the police as theft and a hate crime.”