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Probe launched after historic home destroyed by blaze

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Destroyed: Firefighters battle the blaze at Bridgemount House, Ballinafad, Belcarra, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Destroyed: Firefighters battle the blaze at Bridgemount House, Ballinafad, Belcarra, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

Photo : Keith Heneghan / Phocus

Destroyed: Firefighters battle the blaze at Bridgemount House, Ballinafad, Belcarra, Co Mayo. Photo: Keith Heneghan

An investigation is under way after a fire ripped through one of Co Mayo's most historic homes.

Bridgemount House in Belcarra, near Castlebar, was extensively damaged after a fire broke out shortly after 8pm on Tuesday.

The home was occupied by a local family who were renting the property from former solicitor Jacqueline Durcan.

Durcan was jailed for 12 months in December 2017 after she pleaded guilty to stealing €260,000 between February 21, 2008, and January 27, 2011, from her own legal firm, Durcan Solicitors in Castlebar.

Her sentence was later reduced on appeal and she and her husband and five children relocated to Brussels.

Investigators believe the fire may have been sparked by an electrical fault.

The occupiers of the house, a local family of three, contacted the fire service after smelling smoke.

Fire crews who arrived at the scene encountered a significant delay in accessing the property.

It is understood the crews had to wait for the arrival of a rock breaker to demolish a gatepost that led into the long and narrow avenue leading to the house.

The ferocity of the fire was so advanced at that point the crews battled for hours to eventually bring it under control.

Fortunately there were no reports of any injuries.

It is understood three people were in the house when the blaze took hold, a man and woman aged in their 50s and their son, who is aged in his early 20s.

Locals reported spotting smoke coming from the basement of the property before the entire house became engulfed by flames.

Bridgemount House was the home of the Acton family in the 19th century and later became the place of residence of Dame Judy Coyne, founder of the Knock Handmaidens Society. Her husband Liam Coyne was a District Court judge in the early years of the Irish Free State.

Senator Paddy Burke said the community in Belcarra was very saddened to hear of the destruction of the historic house by the fire.

"It's a tragedy for such a hard-working and respected family in the area.

"They are the best of people and all we can be thankful for is nobody was injured," he said.

"It was a fine house and one that people in the area had an attachment too.

"The Coyne family, who previously owned the house, were very well known in Mayo.

"It's a terrible thing to happen," he said.

Irish Independent