Residents forced to flee as fire engulfs petrol station
Witnesses to a petrol station fire have told of the terrifying moment when it looked as if the blaze would engulf nearby homes.
Families living beside the building on the Stewartstown Road, in west Belfast, were evacuated from their houses in the early hours of yesterday as the fire raged yards from petrol pumps.
Local residents watched on in horror as firefighters battled against strong winds to keep the blaze from reaching their homes and nearby businesses.
Footage of the fire showed smoke and flames billowing over the tops of buildings at around 2.30am.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said 45 firefighters attended the scene of the incident.
With the blaze extinguished, investigators are now working to determine the cause.
One local resident, who did not wish to be named, described hearing "popping" noises, followed by a loud bang. "My neighbour heard the noises first and came over to our house to wake us up," she explained.
"I looked outside and saw the flames - it was really bad.
"The fire officers told us that we needed to find somewhere else to stay for the night because it was too risky to stay in our homes.
"The flames were huge and it was a really windy night, so that made things even worse."
NIFRS group commander Chris Fee confirmed that one of the biggest concerns was the possibility of the blaze spreading to fuel pumps and homes, potentially damaging buildings or worse.
"The night was particularly windy, so the crews worked very quickly," he said.
"There was the potential that the fire could have spread to the petrol pumps.
"Our biggest concern was to attempt to contain it to one property because the wind was blowing the flames.
"It took a lot of work to contain the fire in one premises."