Sunday 22 April 2018

Firefighters praised for preventing deaths in Belfast high-rise fire

Fire suspected to have been caused by a toaster

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION
People gather at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
The scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Firefighters at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
The scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
The scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.
Emergency services attend the scene of a fire at the 15-storey Coolmoyne House, housing block in Belfast, Northern Ireland November 15, 2017 in this image taken from social media. Robert Cullen/via REUTERS
Emergency services attend the scene of a fire at the 15-storey Coolmoyne House, housing block in Belfast, Northern Ireland November 15, 2017 in this image taken from social media. Robert Cullen/via REUTERS
Four people are being treated by paramedics following a blaze that ripped through a high-rise block of flats in Northern Ireland.
Flames are seen coming from the side of the 15-storey Coolmoyne House, housing block in Belfast, Northern Ireland November 15, 2017 in this image taken from social media. Robert Cullen/via REUTERS
Image of the fire via Belfast Telegraph
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Firefighters have been praised for averting loss of life after a fire broke out in a high-rise tower block near Belfast.

The blaze burst through windows of a ninth floor apartment in Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, causing scorch damage on two sides of the 14-storey property.

The man whose flat caught alight was rescued by fire service personnel who also helped lead other residents to safety.

Paramedics tended to four patients, a Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesman said.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Group Commander Geoff Somerville said the accidental fire, which he said was suspected to have been caused by a toaster, was well developed when crews arrived within five minutes of the emergency call.

"I am very relieved there is no loss of life and that is only because of the courageous actions of our firefighters here today," he said.

"We had 55 firefighters in attendance and thanks to their professionalism no one has lost their life in this premises."

The fire comes a day after the five-month anniversary of the Grenfell high-rise inferno which killed at least 80 people.

Evacuated residents gathered outside the building as the emergency response unfolded. Some later went to a nearby community centre.

Some expressed concerns that fire alarms did not sound through the building when the blaze took hold.

Mr Somerville said the alarm system operated as designed, with the alarms inside the man's flat sounding and a soundless alarm system in the communal area to open air vents also activating.

He said alarms in other flats should only have sounded if they detected smoke.

"The fire alarm system worked as expected," he said.

Mr Somerville said crews had averted the spread of the fire to other flats.

"It flashed out through the windows of the flat on two different sides of the building," he said.

"When we arrived it was a very well developed fire and I'm glad to say it was very quickly brought under control."

Robert Zwaagman, who lives on the 12th floor, said the first he knew of the fire was when fire crews arrived.

He insisted an alarm should have sounded throughout the building.

"Especially after the Grenfell Tower accident the main question and the main concern of mine is the fact why didn't the alarms go off, with such a big fire, on every floor?" he said.

Mr Zwaagman said it had been a "frightening" experience.

"I am okay now but just a couple of minutes ago I was shaking," he said.

Fellow resident Janice Sloan said: "It's such a shock to have such an event like this.

"The first we knew anything was wrong was the two fire brigades outside."

Assembly member Edwin Poots said his overriding emotion was one of relief.

"It's one of huge relief that this isn't another Grenfell disaster," he said.

"This is a high tower and it could have been much, much worse but we had a brilliant response from the fire service who quickly brought the fire under control and got everyone out of the building, supported by the other emergency services."

The Democratic Unionist representative said residents had endured a "hugely traumatic" experience.

"The big concern for a lot of the residents is that smoke alarms did not go off throughout the building, so many residents were in a burning building and didn't realise it," he said.

Press Association

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