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Baize hero potty at blaze rescue

By Ciaran McGuigan

Double snooker world champion Alex Higgins cheated death when he was rescued from a blaze by fire fighters.



The ‘Hurricane’ was one of a more than a dozen residents who needed to be rescued from an early morning fire at a housing complex in south Belfast last week.

Firefighters with breathing apparatus carried five adults from the blaze at Ulidia House at around 2am last Wednesday.

Another nine, including Higgins, were led to safety from the accidental fire.

Sunday Life understands that the blaze was caused by an electrical fault inside one of the flats.

The alarm was raised when the occupant of the flat returned home to discover the blaze already alight.

When the man opened the door to his fifth-floor flat, the corridors quickly filled with thick black smoke.

Nine fire appliances and 43 firefighters attended the scene and quickly brought the fire under control.

As they tackled the blaze, residents stayed in the flats behind fire doors. The flats were then evacuated so residents could escape the deadly smoke when the fire was put out.

Snooker ace Higgins was led to safety from the floor above the blaze.

It was almost two hours later before the fire service gave the all-clear for residents to return to their flats.

Local sources described how Higgins emerged from the complex in his dressing gown and wanted to return to his own flat immediately.

“He didn’t want to be outside,” said one bystander.

“He wanted to turn on his heel and go back into his flat, even though fire crews were there trying to make sure that the flats were clear of smoke and that everybody was accounted for and the flats were safe to return to.

“I don’t think he was happy, but had little choice.”

Said fire commander Chris Kerr: “The fire was brought under control quickly once fire hoses were brought to bear on the room itself.

“It was the smoke that gave us cause for most concern.

“People waited behind fire doors until the fire was extinguished and then they were brought out by rescue teams.

“They then waited downstairs until residents were allowed back into their flats.”

Added a local source: “The fella who lived in the flat returned home to open his door and was knocked back by the smoke.

“All his belongings, his clothes and everything, were destroyed by smoke.

“He was covered from head-to-toe in soot himself when he came out.

“He was found somewhere to stay, but it’s hard to lose all your possessions like that.”

MP for the area Alasdair McDonnell praised firefighters for saving the lives of the people in the flats.

Said the SDLP deputy leader: “This early morning fire at the apartments in Ulidia House could have been fatal, where it not for the swift action of our local fire service.

“Fire crews quickly arrived at the scene and rescued 14 residents, carrying those with disabilities down the stairs to safety. They then battled hard to get the blaze under control.

“My thoughts are with these residents. They have been through a terrifying ordeal.”

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