Families in fear of fire deaths
Modern estate homes hit by 30 chimney blazes in three years
FAMILIES fear they will be burned in their beds with 30 fires hitting their estate in just three years.
Almost 40 families were ecstatic when they received the keys of their modern homes at Mill View in Ballitore, Co Kildare, three years ago.
But their dream turned to a nightmare when the first chimney fire started in a two-storey house within six weeks.
Residents of the bungalows also noticed how smoke enveloped their homes every time a fire was lit.
In the past fortnight, residents had to put out another chimney fire, but Kildare County Council last night insisted there were no health and safety issues arising from the construction of the houses or the fireplaces.
The estate is owned by Kildare County Council and the residents are local authority tenants.
There are 59 children living in 38 new houses in the estate, 40 of whom suffer from asthma or other severe breathing difficulties.
There is no evidence to suggest their health issues are caused by the chimney fires but GPs told them they were made worse by poor ventilation.
Mother-of-two Martina Reid said there was a down-draft as soon as she lit her fire.
"The whole room fills up with smoke. I wouldn't light it at all but it controls the heating and the hot water," she told the Irish Independent.
Martina's son, Kevin (9), was tested for cystic fibrosis.
"He was so bad one day with all the smoke that I had to bring him to Portlaoise General Hospital at 1am," she added.
Louise McGough has had two chimney fires in her home at 26 Mill View.
The first time she leapt off the chair as she thought the noise was someone driving through the front door.
Ms McGough's four-year-old son Daniel coughs until he vomits every night and he is on two inhalers.
He has had to take five courses of antibiotics in seven months for infections.
Daisy Rooney is on antibiotics and steroids to keep her breathing under control. She describes her home as "absolutely lovely" at first glance. But as soon as she turns on the extractor fan in her kitchen, the smoke is drawn from her chimney.
She is now afraid to light her fire and had to fork out over €400 for one ESB bill to cover the cost of using the immersion.
Mother-of-three Alma Purcell told how she got the fright of her life one morning in February 2008.
"I lit the fire and it went flying up the chimney, it was a flash fire. I could hear the roars up the chimney and the soot went flying," she said.
The side of her home has suffered smoke damage. She has to give her children Adam (14), Caitlin (9), and Scott (6) duvets to keep warm.
Kildare County Council said fire service records showed they had attended Mill View 14 times to deal with incidents since the new section of the estate opened.
A statement acknowledged householders may not report all chimney fires to the brigade.
"There may have been some other incidents. We believe that these did not exceed six in number," it said.
However, residents dispute this, claiming they have seen at least 30 fires.
The council stated Mill View residents were given advice on the maintenance of back boilers.
"We had the houses surveyed by the provider of the fireplaces and back boilers. The survey indicated that the equipment was satisfactory," the statement added.
A second survey has since been commissioned and the council is studying its findings.
"(The) report has just come to hand and we will study it before making a decision as to what, if anything, needs to be done," the council said.
The statement further outlined how a health and safety issue had not been shown "arising from the construction of the houses or the fireplaces".