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Ballymena blaze: Fire chief says alarm helped people escape flames and smoke at house

By Nevin Farrell

Published 02/01/2016

Police and firefighters at the scene of a fire at Galgorm Road, Ballymena, on Saturday January 2, 2016. Picture North East News
Police and firefighters at the scene of a fire at Galgorm Road, Ballymena, on Saturday January 2, 2016. Picture North East News

A fire chief has said an alarm sounding at a house divided into flats in Ballymena helped occupants escape from flames and smoke after a blaze broke out on Saturday afternoon.

Fire Service group commander Fergal Leonard, speaking at the scene at Galgorm Road, said three people fled the building after a fire started in a basement part of the property which is just metres from Ballymena PSNI Station.

A police spokesman said on Saturday afternoon the cause of the fire was under investigation and said traffic diversions were put in place at the scene.

Mr Leonard from the Fire Service meanwhile said 20 firefighters were called to the scene.

He said: "At approximately 12.15pm Fire & Rescue Service received a call to Galgorm Road, Ballymena. It is a house of multiple occupation and the difficulty with that is the layout of it. Instead of it being like an ordinary domestic house there are a number of rooms or a number of apartments in it.

"Whenever we arrived here we got reports the fire was on the ground floor of the building. Crews wearing breathing apparatus entered to extinguish the fire. After carrying out a search of the ground floor there was no fire there so they proceeded to the lower ground floor level. There were two appliances from Ballymena and two from Antrim, a total of 20 firefighters.

"Whenever we detected the fire in the basement we removed all crews from inside the building and tackled the fire from outside. Whenever the fire was extinguished we recommitted firefighters carrying breathing apparatus to carry out a search of the property.

"Due to the complex layout of the premises this took some time as we wanted to make sure there were no people in the building. We also carried out a search of an adjoining premises to make sure there was no smoke and no one trapped in the building.

"I am pleased to say that all persons have been accounted for and no injuries and if I could pass on this very important message to both owners and residents in houses of multiple occupation and residents of ordinary domestic premises about the importance of having a working fire alarm.

"There was an alarm in this house and it operated and that alerted the occupants. We are working with police at present to establish the cause of the fire.

"Three adults evacuated themselves when they heard the fire alarm system. They were in different flats. The fire was mainly confined to the lower ground floor room however there was extensive smoke damage travelling up through the building," said Mr Leonard.

One man, Inayat Shah, said he was glad nobody was hurt and said firefighters got the situation under control quickly

His grandson, Michael Mohammed (15), said he saw police going into an adjoining property to get people out.

"I came down with my grandfather and he gave the keys to the police who went upstairs to get everybody out safely," Michael said.

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