Arsonist behind devastating fire, claims head-shop owner
THE owner of a controversial 'head shop' which was destroyed in a fire has claimed it was started maliciously and he is now fearful for the rest of his businesses.
However, the cause of the fire has still to be determined by a garda investigation into the fire on Capel Street in Dublin. The street will remain closed until Monday.
Massive clouds of smoke rose into the air above central Dublin for more than six hours yesterday as a large-scale emergency operation was mounted to extinguish the fire, which completely destroyed three buildings.
Local residents on Capel Street reported a loud bang just before the fire started at the 'Nirvana' head shop, which sold "legal highs" 24 hours a day at weekends.
Gardai are now investigating the cause of the incident which destroyed the shop as well as the 'Utopia' sex shop beside it and a souvenir shop on the other side.
Jim Bellamy, who owns the sex shop and is co-owner of the other two businesses, said he had been targeted following the debate over 'head shops' in recent weeks.
"I know there is foul play. Somebody has taken the law into their own hands by the disgusting media coverage of the last month or so. We have been tried by the media, found guilty, and this is the sentence, it is disgraceful," he said.
"Now I am concerned . . . that whoever did this will not stop."
About 35 firefighters battled the blaze throughout the morning after they got the emergency call at 6.30am.
The residents of apartments in the adjoining four-storey building were evacuated by gardai. "At about 6.15am, I heard a bang and a flash so I thought a car had gone up on fire," Donal Mooney, who lives in the top-floor apartment, said. "Then all of a sudden it spread rapidly into the first shop."
The blaze was "very intensive" , said district officer David Kavanagh. Five pumps, a ladder unit and a water tanker were used to quell the fire, which was largely extinguished just before midday.
A garda spokesman said any question of arson would be part of the investigation.