Investigators from Dublin and London called in to examine Co Down fire scene
A BLAZE which swept through a Co Down clothes recycling plant and warehouse near the border was one of the biggest in years to be dealt with by firefighters in Northern Ireland.
Investigators from Dublin and London are being called in to examine the scene, but it could be Monday before they actually get inside the building to begin their inspection.
Nobody was hurt, but at the height of the blaze up to 115 officers were involved in a massive operation to prevent the flames spreading from the site to an adjoining car park where 100 lorries had been left overnight. Just two were damaged.
It took several hours before the fire was eventually brought under control.
Senior members of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said the fire at Cloughoge, outside Newry, Co Down, about 400 yards from the main Belfast-Dublin road, was one of the biggest fires they had tackled in years.
At one stage 23 fire appliances were at the scene.
The recycling plant is one of a number of businesses leased inside the modern purpose-built property which measures 100 yards long and 40 yards wide.
The alert was raised late on Thursday night when crews from Newry were confronted with a serious and rapidly developing fire at the warehouse which had high bay storage more than 100 metres in length.
The site is used to bale clothes for export.
Reinforcements, including crews with specialist high-reach aerial appliances, water tankers and high volume pumping units were called in as the flames started to spread to a nearby lorry car park.
Water had to be pumped in from miles away with local residents and businesses helping out, according to Northern Ireland chief fire officer Chris Kerr who was charge of the fire fighting operation.
He said: "This is one of the biggest incidents we have attended in many years and I am confident that only the courage and professionalism of our crews prevented the incident from escalating further.
"Our crews have worked in difficult and punishing conditions to prevent fire spread and while there is significant damage to property we have managed to save at least 50pc of this major commercial enterprise.
"I would commend all those who are working at this major incident including those members of the local community who have assisted us.
"We have implemented our contingency plans to ensure emergency cover is provided across Northern Ireland while we deal with what will be a protracted incident."