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Home and businesses are damaged in arson attacks

By Angela Rainey

Published 11/04/2016

Smoke from the blaze at a property in the Glenview Avenue. Photo by Kevin Scott/Presseye
Smoke from the blaze at a property in the Glenview Avenue. Photo by Kevin Scott/Presseye
Firefighters at the scene in north Belfast
Forensics at the barbers and taxi depot at Glen Road. Photo by Kevin Scott/Presseye

Police are appealing for witnesses after separate arson attacks on a home and businesses in Belfast at the weekend.

An elderly couple were evacuated from their home in the north of the city after arsonists set the adjoining derelict house ablaze on Saturday morning.

And in a second fire yesterday, a dangerous backdraft is believed to have caused an explosion in west Belfast.

In the first incident, a 78-year-old grandmother raised the alarm after she and her disabled 76-year-old husband were awoken by noise from the house next door at around 7.30am.

All four bedrooms in their home of 30 years were damaged and the couple's granddaughter Emma McKee said they might be forced to move as a result.

Ms McKee said her grandparents had previously made several complaints about anti-social youths pestering residents in the Glenview Avenue area.

"Over the last year or so, my granny and grandad have constantly complained about the kids knocking about the area and lighting fires.

"There were lamp-posts and glasses smashed outside their house,"

"At about 7.30am, my granddad heard noises from the house next door which is abandoned.

"They got dressed. They thought there were people there.

"They saw four boys running with their hoods up.

"Then my granny saw the smoke and phoned the fire brigade."

She said the arson attack has left her elderly grandmother distraught.

"All the memories are in that house," added Ms McKee.

"They've been there for 30 years. It's something they built together but they might have to move out now,

"My granny is the nicest woman you'll ever meet. She is completely heartbroken."

Up to 20 firefighters were called to tackle the blaze at the house, which had been derelict for about 10 years.

"The residents in the occupied premises next door were alerted by the sound of youths," said local station commander Ken McEwan.

"Upon arrival, we discovered a well developed fire in the derelict part of the semi-detached building, with the first and second floors of the three-storey premises involved.

"I would appeal for all parents to know where their children are playing, derelict properties are not a playground."

In a second suspected arson attack, firefighters were called to a blaze at two businesses on west Belfast's Glen Road.

Premises belonging to A2B Cabs and JJ's Barbers in the Bearnagh Drive area were gutted after a blaze ripped through the units.

Stephen Comerford owns both business units, having set up A2B taxis 18 years ago and JJ's five years ago.

He said that although the fire has caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage, it's still business as usual.

"I had just finished work at 3am then I got the call at 5am telling me the place was on fire," said Mr Comerford (36), who drives buses and taxis at the transport firm and employs 34 staff.

"We are a local business, staffed by local people, we are part of the community here and we have been for a very long time."

Security camera footage from the scene suggests that more than one person poured petrol over the roof and inside the units before using a taper to set them alight.

"Everybody is rallying round and doing their bit with the support of the community and we will rebuild the units and come back even stronger," added Mr Comerford.

"We will try our best to save the jobs of the local people who work here and people can still ring A2B taxis because we have managed to keep the phone lines, so it's business as usual.

"And I would urge the community to support us to help us to get back to normal as soon as possible.

"A lot of stock and equipment has been destroyed, which will be replaced, but thankfully no one was injured."

Police have appealed for information.

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