Safety warning after deadly cocktail fire

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FIREfighters have issued a warning on bonfire safety after being called to a potentially lethal one.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service say an out of control bonfire they dealt with in Sicklesmere Road, Bury St Edmunds, on Sunday contained a trio of toxic and potentially explosive items that should never be added to any fire. Crews from Bury found a 10m square of old tyres, paint cans and at least one gas cylinder alight.

SFRS community safety manager John Wilcock said the most dangerous item was the gas cylinder. “Propane and butane are liquid petroleum gases,” he said. “Those superheat and will explode, throwing debris and you’ll know about it if you get hit by one!”

Even an apparently empty cylinder can explode, often travelling a long distance and with the risk of ‘shrapnel’ flying out.

If any of the paint was in an aerosol, he warned, it would have behaved like a small gas cylinder. “If you heat one the explosion can be fierce and it takes burning material with it,” Mr Wilcock said.

Even ordinary paint tins explode as the heat forces the contents to expand while trapped in an enclosed space. With solvent based paints there is the added danger of burning liquids and toxic fumes being thrown about.

Mr Wilcock said the thick black smoke from burning tyres is also toxic. He added: “They burn well and you need great amounts of water to stop it.

“We always say if you’re having a bonfire, make sure you have a hose available to stop it and frequently wet the ground around it to stop it spreading. Think about where they’re located because you’ve got to make sure they’re well away from buildings and hedgerows, especially in summer when everything is dry. Never leave a bonfire unattended.”

He also warned against starting fires with flammable liquids. “When people light barbecues and bonfires with liquids they tend to splash it about and it gets on their clothes so when they light it, everything catches fire,” he said.