Fire crews save Portrush care home from flames
Blaze's spread from derelict property next door is halted
More than 70 firefighters from across Northern Ireland battled to keep a Portrush blaze from spreading to a neighbouring residential care home at the weekend.
The fire began in a derelict end terrace building in the town's Bath Terrace at around 9.10pm on Easter Sunday.
Police say the fire may have been started deliberately and are treating it as suspicious.
Group commander of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) Max Joyce said that seven appliances from across the province had helped tackle the inferno, as well as an aerial support platform, which poured water from above, and a Red Cross fire and emergency support service vehicle.
"This was one of the more dangerous incidents," he said.
"The difficulty was the layout of the building was quite complicated, it included a basement, and as well as that there was Seabank Residential Home to one side.
"By the time the crews had arrived the premises was well alight on the ground floor.
"We had plans in place with the Ambulance Service to move the 33 care home residents, and they were gathered into one place in order to be evacuated quickly.
"But we elected to keep them in place and fight the fire and make sure it didn't spread.
"The blaze was brought under control at 6.30am the next morning. We now have teams working there to find out what happened."
While the cause has yet to be determined, Mr Joyce highlighted the dangers of setting fires in derelict buildings.
"What starts as a joke or boredom could quickly spread to neighbouring homes and people could lose their lives," he said.
Seabank Residential Home manageress Dawn Fullerton praised the emergency services, and said one of her staff had even saved another neighbour from an adjacent property. "A next-door neighbour was oblivious to what was going on, and our staff member alerted him and brought him into the home, he was very shook up; his home is gone," she revealed.
"We have a procedure whereby our staff are on call for an emergency, but many arrived before they were even called and they kept the residents entertained with a sing-song so they weren't too nervous. The emergency services were fantastic; they kept us and the residents informed."
Portrush UUP councillor Norman Hillis said that the fire "could have been very serious, particularly with elderly people involved".
"We could have been looking at a tragedy if it hadn't been for the actions of the Fire Service, fortunately a major incident was averted," he added. "I would like to congratulate the PSNI, the Fire Service and the staff of Seabank Residential Home."
The PSNI is appealing for anyone with information to contact it on 101, quoting reference number 1029 of 16/04/17.