Poundstretcher staff see workplace gutted in huge fire
Temporary premises are being sought to project the 15 jobs endangered after a Poundstretcher store in Londonderry was completely destroyed in a mammoth blaze.
More than 50 firefighters battled through the night on Wednesday to bring the blaze under control despite facing considerable risk from highly flammable substances inside the building - including 100 gas canisters and barbecue fuel.
While the four-storey building on Bishop Street - where Poundstretcher had been located for more than three decades - was lost in the blaze, firefighters saved the businesses on either side and First Derry Presbyterian Church, which backs on to the building from Magazine Street.
Fire commander Con McGuigan explained the significant dangers his crews faced.
He said: "Initially the fire looked fairly harmless but what we didn't realise right away was that a fully developed fire was occurring behind roller shutters.
"We had eight pumping appliances and three specialist appliances and a crew of 53 firefighters tackling this substantial fire from 1.30am.
"By the time we were able to open up the shop and get a good look at it, it had developed to three floors of the building.
"It was made more hazardous by the content of the store, there were gas canisters which exploded for hours through the night.
"There was also a large stack of barbecue material which burned for a long time."
The blaze was eventually brought under control and the streets around the Diamond reopened to traffic.
A spokesman for the NIFRS said the incident concluded at 1.34am on Friday July 17 and the case is currently under investigation.
The search for temporary premises for the business has already begun.
Michael McMenamin, who has worked at the store for almost five years, said: "It was such a shock to the system to see all the smoke.
"We are so lucky no one was injured. I loved my job. We were like a family there."
Store manager John Hamill said: "There is structural and fire damage to the building. We have a 4,000sq ft extension at the back of the building that will need to be pulled to the ground.
"The company has invested a lot in the city over the past 25 years and we will look to restructure this store and rebuild the extension.
"There have been tears this morning, but we will look at possibly relocating the business elsewhere."
City centre manager Jim Roddy is at the forefront of efforts to relocate the business.
He said: "It is very worrying for the staff, many of whom were here from the early hours of the morning.
"It was very upsetting for them to see their place of work disappear in front of their eyes, but we have already begun looking at some empty premises to see if we can get them moved as quickly as we can."