Family home targeted for fourth time in arson attack on Larne pigeon loft
Family escape injury but 30 pigeons killed as loft destroyed in arson attack
A father has hit out after his family's home was targeted for the fourth time in a year.
Around 30 pigeons owned by Francis Hagans, who is in his 40s, were burned to death by arsonists who lit a fire in their loft at the back of the home in the Antiville area of Larne in the early hours of Friday.
Mr Hagans, who is in his 40s, said he was just happy his wife and two children were okay.
"The way the fire went, it could have engulfed the whole house," he added.
"I'm annoyed at the death of the pigeons, but I'm glad my wife and children are safe.
"It could have been much worse - I could be sitting here today having lost my family."
As well as killing the birds and destroying the loft, the blaze, which was reported shortly after 2am, spread to two nearby properties, damaging both.
Mr Hagans was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, but his family were not harmed in the incident.
A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said four appliances were sent to tackle the blaze.
"Firefighters using breathing apparatus and a hose-reel jet dealt with a fire at a pigeon loft well alight in the area, causing significant damage," he added
"The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service finished at the scene at 3.30am. The fire is being treated as deliberate."
PSNI Detective Constable Rachel Gardiner appealed to the public for information regarding the attack
Local Ulster Unionist Party councillor Andy Wilson said the culprits had put lives at risk.
"What is really worrying about this is that a row of houses could have gone up in flames," Mr Wilson explained.
"It is bad enough that so many pigeons were killed, but there was every possibility that this reckless arson attack could have led to innocent people losing their lives. I just hope that the police can stamp this sort of incident out."
The attack was the second on pigeon lofts in the Larne area over the past year.
Two lofts in the Brustin Brae Road part of the town were set alight last September, killing around 100 birds.
President of Larne and District Homing Pigeon Society Owen Donnelly said he was "shocked and disgusted" to hear about the latest incident.
"I want to condemn this completely," Mr Donnelly added. "It is absolutely horrible that someone would want to do this defenceless animals.
"I can't think of any reason at all why someone would do something as cruel as this. It is just dreadful."