Sunday 21 July 2019

Florentine blaze isn't suspicious

Bray hit by several fires - two at traders' premises on Main Street and one at a home on Galtrim Road

Firefighters tackling the fire at the Florentine Bar, Hilton’s Pharmacy and the offices of Maguire McNiece solicitors
Firefighters tackling the fire at the Florentine Bar, Hilton’s Pharmacy and the offices of Maguire McNiece solicitors
Examining the damage the morning after the fire at the Florentine Bar

Mary Fogarty

Gardai in Bray have said that there is nothing to indicate that a fire in a three-storey building on Bray's Main Street last week was suspicious.

The blaze broke out in the early hours of Friday morning, claiming the Florentine Bar, Hilton's Pharmacy and the offices of Maguire McNiece solicitors.

The area remained sealed off until Friday evening as the fire still raged. The fire service returned to the scene on Monday afternoon as the fire was smouldering again. They gained access from the laneway to the rear of the Florentine bar, with the entrance on Quinsboro Road.

Superintendent Pat Ward of Bray Garda Station said that gardaí will be carrying out a forensic investigation.

Their operation at the time of the fire involved closing the street and assisting the fire service in ensuring the safety of the public and traffic.

Businesses along the Main Street and some on Quinsboro Road were shut on Friday as power to their premises was cut during the operation.

'The fire service really take charge of the fire scene until the fire is fully extinguished and we assist them,' said Supt Ward. 'Then when they are finished we take up the investigation. It's a joint effort to make everyone safe.'

District Administrator of Bray Municipal District David Forde said that while there were initially worries that the fire would encroach on the site of the Florentine shopping centre, this did not occur.

He said that the premises of the centre itself is a distance away from the curtilage of the site, and that work continued on Friday.

Chief fire officer Aidan Dempsey said that emergency services received a 999 call at around 1.30 a.m. on Friday, reporting the fire at the Florentine bar.

Fire crews from Bray and Greystones were immediately mobilised and the Bray fire crew was first on the scene at 1.37 a.m.

On arrival, smoke and flames were visible to fire fighters at the entrance to the Florentine Bar which is part of a three-storey building on the Main Street.

While there was no one in the building, residents of an adjacent apartment were evacuated for their safety.

Initially the crew from Bray fought the fire from the front of the building while the fire crew from Greystones fought the fire from a rear laneway. The incident commander mobilised the fire crew from Wicklow town to provide a hydraulic platform which was capable of fighting the fire from above.

The fire was quickly contained within building but it was difficult to fully extinguish due to the age and layout of the building.

The crews from Greystones and Wicklow town left the scene at 9 a.m. to be replaced by a fire crew from Rathdrum who were assisting at the scene and immediately available to respond to any other incidents in the Bray area.

On Friday afternoon, there were two fire crews (Bray and Rathdrum), a hydraulic platform (Wicklow town) and a water tanker from Greystones at the scene.

'Sad way to start the New Year'

Business neighbour Liz-Anne Woollam (Molloy) said that she and her staff, and the entire business community were saddened by the fire.

'We are devastated for our neighbours,' said Liz-Anne, who is the proprietor of Liz-Anne's Café across the road from The Florentine. 'They have been wonderful business people in Bray, and customers of ours for many years,' she said.

'We really want to send all of our best wishes to Joe and his staff, and to the wonderful staff of Hiltons and the Florentine bar. It's just a terribly sad way to start the new year for everybody.'

A large crowd of onlookers observed the fire service work throughout Friday, from the opposite side of the street. 'All them jobs will be lost now. At least there's nobody burned in the fire,' said one woman.

'There's no lives lost, that's the main thing,' said a man watching from the footpath. 'You can always replace buildings. The fire fighters are here since 1.30 in the morning and are doing amazing work.'

Gesture by neighbouring businesses

In the aftermath of the blaze, a neighbouring business offered its own premises to Hilton's pharmacy to use as a hub until they make more permanent arrangements.

A spokeswoman for Hilton's said that while staff and management remain shocked, they are blown away by the kindness they have received from the community.

She said that they have been working out of their Cornelscourt store and that staff will be at the hub in Bray Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

'We are also trying to set up deliveries,' she said, adding that they had been able to get most of the files out undamaged.

'We are all devastated but so thankful to everyone for their patience and overwhelming support.

'You hear about these things then when it happens you realise you're part of such an amazing community.'

She said that owner Carl Hilton would like to extend his thanks to the fire fighters and gardaí for their bravery and professionalism.

Pink Bomb moved all of their stock into the Fitzmaurice's The Feel Good Pharmacy on Quinsboro Road, vacating their store for the chemist affected by the fire.

'To preserve the jobs and help Hilton's pharmacy to serve the community, Pink Bomb has decided to give our space to them for the time being,' said a spokesperson for the business. 'It was a last-minute decision and everything happened quickly.

'However, Pink Bomb is not gone forever. We are trying our best to find a new location. For now, most of the stock has been moved to Fitzmaurece's The Feel Good Pharmacy.'

They are also seeking a location to hold workshops.

Solicitors Maguire McNiece have moved into offices at 5A Quinsboro Road. A spokesman for the Florentine bar said that they were 'devastated' to lose the pub.

'The fire brigade were superb'

Solicitor Joe Maguire found out about the fire at the building at 1.30 a.m. on Friday, as soon as it broke out.

'It was a total shock. The main thing is the fire brigade were superb. They did a very thorough job evacuating people,' said Joe, who works alongside fellow solicitor Paddy McNeice.

'There are residents in the premises beside us. We were concerned about them, they were literally going around in their nightclothes. Gardai I think got accommodation for them and thankfully nobody was hurt.'

Joe said that so many people had been wishing him well and commiserating throughout the day. 'It is very reassuring,' he said.

'We were very lucky, our systems seem to have worked. We have a computer backup which downloads each night and it downloaded last night before the actual fire.

'That was our concern, and it is right up to date. So that's all stored somewhere in the cloud.

'Now we need to get somewhere where our staff can work and get on with their jobs. There are around 14 in the office, then with the pharmacy and pub there are a lot of jobs.

'It's a priority now to get the place back up and running as quickly as possible.' Before being accommodated in Quinsboro Road premises, the Greystones office was able to manage calls from clients.

'The gardai and the fire brigade were just so efficient,' said Joe. 'The way they acted in terms of safety, blocked off the street. It's interesting to see it, although I'd prefer to look at it in films!'

Joe said that their colleagues in the legal profession had been very supportive and generous in their offers of help.

Bray People