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Party atmosphere turns to panic as pyre's molten debris sets homes ablaze

By Rebecca Black

Published 13/07/2016

At the peak of the Hopewell Square bonfire the flames shot high into the sky showering bright red embers and molten debris over the crowd.

Nestled between the Shankill and Crumlin Roads, the pyre was one of the biggest in Belfast and could be seen burning brightly from the city's surrounding hilltops.

Lighting up the nearby wreckage of the old Crumlin courthouse, it dominated the area from when it was lit at the traditional time of midnight.

The bonfire drew several hundred revellers for both the flames and party music being pumped from a nearby stage.

The sheer heat of the bonfire pushed the crowd back, windows in nearby houses were boarded up for protection, however most dangerous was the cloud of red hot debris being showered by the wind from the flames as it blew towards a row of terraced houses.

Some spectators dodged the deadly missiles, while others sheltered and some were not so lucky. One photographer was left with a minor injury to his face and another's coat was burned down on one side.

The mood, however, changed utterly when glowing embers could be seen lying on the roof of one of the houses in the terrace. Smoke started to rise and quickly the roof was ablaze.

One man heroically scaled the wall of the house to the roof to try and extinguish the flames. Others looked on in horror as he almost slipped before steadying himself.

Firefighters were quickly on the scene, and marshals rushed to ensure they could get as close as possible to try and save the houses as the music was stopped.

However it quickly became clear that the roof of a second house was also alight, and residents could be seen rushing from the houses clutching large bags of what belongings they were able to grab as they fled their homes.

They were supported by neighbours as they watched helplessly as their homes and belongings were enveloped by the flames.

Belfast Telegraph

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