Firefighters could have died when they came under attack on their way to tackle a malicious blaze at the home of an 84-year-old woman, it was warned today.
As fire crews rushed to the blaze in the Twinbrook area of west Belfast they came under attack on the Stewartstown Road and a brick smashed their windscreen window.
The driver suffered cuts to his neck and arms and another crew member got glass in his eye. Despite their injuries both firefighters continued on to the blaze where the crew found the pensioner suffering from smoke inhalation and shock.
After helping tackle the blaze the injured firefighters received hospital treatment and were released early this morning.
“If it had not been for the professional and calm actions of the driver we would have been talking about the death and serious injuries of fire officers this morning,” said Chris Kerr, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue area commander for Belfast.
“Unfortunately this is not an isolated incident,” he added.
Mr Kerr also warned that had the crew not made it to the house the pensioner’s life would have been in danger.
“We received a number of calls at 11.30pm saying a caravan was on fire in a garden at Juniper Rise in Twinbrook,” he said. “As the fire crew from Lisburn Road station were making their way along Stewartstown Road they could see a ferocious blaze in the distance. That is when they came under attack. The crew proceeded on to the house where they courageously tackled the fire.
“There had been an explosion and the fire had spread to the house. The occupant was suffering from smoke inhalation and shock. No doubt if the crew had not continued on to the scene the incident would have escalated and endangered the life of the occupant.”
The PSNI said both incidents are now under investigation and urged anyone with information to contact them. A spokeswoman added the caravan was completely destroyed and two neighbouring properties were scorch damaged.
Sinn Fein MLA for west Belfast Jennifer McCann said:“This fire could have escalated and killed people. I want those responsible to think about the consequences of their actions. It is always the same group of people. This community would like to say to them they have to stop this and they have to stop terrorising this community.”
The attack on firefighters as they attended the blaze is the latest in a large number of attacks on emergency services.
Jim Barbour, senior union official for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, has said that a number of firefighters have had to leave work because of injuries sustained during attacks on them while they were trying to work.