July 11, 2009

N. Ireland tries new-style July 12 fires

Some officials in Northern Ireland are trying to give the traditional July 12 bonfires a new look this year, using carbon-neutral steel beacons.

The bonfires are lit by Loyalists to commemorate the victory of King William III over his Roman Catholic father-in-law, James II, in 1690.

The Belfast City Council erected six of its new beacons Friday, The Times of London reported. The pyramids, set on a base of sand, are filled with wood chips and willow and are said to burn for as long as two hours.

While the beacons are expensive, at 8,000 pounds (about $12,000) each, they can be reused several times. Cleanup after a bonfire using scrap lumber and most anything else that will burn bonfire costs about 5,000 pounds.

Northern Ireland will also have plenty of the standard bonfires. Residents begin assembling them several months in advance because of fierce competition. Last-minute raids to steal lumber are frequent.

Colin Patton, an organizer in South Belfast, likes the new beacons.

It saves a lot of grief for residents because it removes a lot of the problems of fly-tipping rubbish around the bonfire site and attracting kids with blue bags full of drink, he told the Times.