Belfast Telegraph

Six rescued from 16th floor of city’s ‘safest’ tower block

by Chris McCann

The north Belfast tower block at the centre of a dramatic fire escape at the weekend is one of the safest around, it has been claimed.

Sinn Fein’s Caral Ni Chuilin, who lives in the area, said safety at Grainne House, a Housing Executive block in the New Lodge area, is “so good” that the Fire Service use it as a template in their training practices.

The Assembly member said she believed the training and evacuation procedures put in place there by the team had “saved lives”.

On Sunday, residents described their horror at being trapped on the top floor of one of the highest apartment blocks in Belfast after a fire broke out while they were sleeping.

Six people escaped injury in a dramatic rescue after smoke alarms went off at around 3.30am on the 16th floor of Grainne House. The fire brigade was quickly on the scene and residents on the top three floors were evacuated.

Caral Ni Chuilin praised the crews who responded to the alert.

“I want to take this opportunity to commend the emergency services for working to help people in what was a massively dangerous situation,” she said.

“The community in the New Lodge will be relieved that no one was injured, or worse, as a result of this fire.

“Sadly, though, it looks like many people will be left without accommodation as a result of damage caused during the fire. Our thoughts are with those people and we must now work to ensure adequate support as well as suitable temporary accommodation is secured for them.”

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood also praised the emergency services’ response to the fire.

“This is a traumatic time for the residents of Grainne House and my sympathies go out to them. I would also like to thank the emergency services, in particular the fire service and the police, for dealing swiftly and effectively in this matter, which had the potential to be much more tragic.

“I have been in regular touch with Housing Executive staff and commend the hard work they are putting in to help residents. I am very concerned about this incident and have asked for a full report.”

Fire officer Martin McDonald said it was a “very dangerous” situation for residents and firefighters.

“They had all been trapped in their flats due to the heavy smoke on the 16th floor,” he said.

“Once the windows in the flat broke, the wind had a big effect.

“It intensified the fire, but we were able to put all our training into practice and we got the fire extinguished fairly quickly.”

Police said one man was arrested and was helping with their inquiries.

There were no reports of serious injuries.

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