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Sunday 24 March 2019

Firefighters battling home blaze ran out of water

The Whearty family home in Bellewstown, Co Meath, was gutted by the fire.
The Whearty family home in Bellewstown, Co Meath, was gutted by the fire.
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A FAMILY watched their home burn for more than half an hour after firefighters battling a blaze in a rural area ran out of water.

The house in the small community of Bellewstown, Co Meath, was totally destroyed during the fire that took more than five hours to extinguish.

Two units, one from nearby Balbriggan, Co Dublin, and another from Drogheda, Co Co Louth, responded to the emergency call at the Whearty home.

The family escaped the two-storey house but said they were "devastated" that their home was gutted by the blaze.

A source within the Fire Brigade has spoken of their frustration that they ran out of water at about 6pm, more than 30 minutes before more units arrived from Ashbourne and Navan in Co Meath.

Retired farmer John Whearty, who lived in the house with his wife Kathleen, told the Irish Independent: "There was a delay alright you know with the water coming. And they (the firefighters) were frustrated about it.

"They were doing their best under the conditions they were working with," he said. "In fairness, from what I can see of it the firemen did their utmost in trying to get it out."

His son Niall said: "My mother's devastated, absolutely devastated."

He said: "There was nobody hurt, that's the main thing. At the end of the day it's only bricks and mortar isn't it, compared to what could have happened."

Asked if they had managed to save anything from their home, John said: "Not a button."

One firefighter that attended the emergency spoke of his frustration.

He said: "Between six and half six an appliance was searching for water and we were just watching the building burn, helpless because nobody sent a tanker.

"It's very disheartening for a fireman to just watch that."

He said that firefighters had scoured the countryside for a hydrant and drew water from a river but by the time they got back to the scene the other units had arrived.

The source questioned why further units weren't sent from Dublin or Louth when the emergency call was first made.


He accused fire authorities of not wanting to send more units over the county boundary.

However, fire authorities have insisted that this was not a problem during the incident.

The chief fire officer in Louth, Eamon Woulfe, said that his service didn't send more units because "the pre-determined attendance (PDA) for a house fire is two water tenders and this was what was mobilised".

According to Mr Woulfe, a tanker from Dundalk was offered but senior officers in Meath sent units from Ashbourne and Navan instead because they were closer.

Irish Independent

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