Pet birds killed as suspicious blaze sweeps backyard
Police say they are treating an early morning fire in Newtownards which killed a flock of pet birds as suspicious.
Three oil tanks, two cars, a garden shed and fences were ablaze when fire crews arrived at the scene at Manor Park at about 4.30am on Sunday.
The cars and shed were destroyed and at least eight budgies inside the shed died.
Four houses were damaged with the fierce blaze causing broken windows and melted guttering.
Several people were also treated for the effects of breathing in smoke and one man sustained burns to his chest and hand.
Resident Lucy Houston woke shortly after 4am on Sunday to find a fire had started outside her house.
“The flames were leaping sky-high over the fence,” she told UTV.
“Our car's been totally destroyed and we've absolutely nothing out the back. We'd budgies in our shed. Everything's just gone,” she added.
Mrs Houston's husband William tried to put out the fire.
“I got up and went out and got the garden hose,” he explained.
“I started to hose it, thinking it would calm it down.”
Mr Houston received burns to his hand and chest.
“If it was malicious it's a very silly thing putting people's lives at risk at a quarter to five in the morning.
“It doesn't bear thinking about,” Mrs Houston added.
James McAllister, from the Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters prevented four homes from being destroyed.
“To add to the difficult operation faced by the crews, there was an oil fire running towards them.
“Firefighters immediately got two foam jets to work to knock down the fire and protect properties involved and prevent the fire from spreading any further,” he said.
“It is too horrific to contemplate what could have happened here and the reality is that the potential of suspicious fires is to cause serious injury or, worse still, fatalities,” DUP MLA Jonathan Bell said.
UUP MLA Mike Nesbitt added: “This was an extremely serious incident which could easily have resulted in tragedy.
“I am concerned that the police are treating this as suspicious, because that would suggest they believe this fire was deliberate,” he said.