Belfast Telegraph

Belfast tenant tells of terror as blaze ripped through flats

By Michelle Weir

A north Belfast man has recalled the terrifying moment he was awoken at 5am to see flames in the apartment block where he lives.

Gary Kelly was among seven residents who fled an early morning fire at the complex on the Ardoyne Road early yesterday morning.

Some tenants had to climb down the outside of the building by ladder after becoming trapped inside their homes due to smoke.

Mr Kelly, who has lived on the ground floor of the block for five years, described seeing flames through a pane of glass.

"The smoke alarms went off. Everybody was shouting 'what's going on'," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

He said that he rushed to get dressed after being awakened from his sleep.

While Mr Kelly managed to escape by foot, he saw one of his neighbours having to be rescued by ladder at the front of the Housing Executive building.

Paramedics treated a number of tenants for smoke inhalation.

The blaze was caused after a motorcycle in a communal hallway was set alight during the early hours of the morning.

The alarm was raised by 22-year-old Dominique McIlvenna, girlfriend of the motorbike owner James Gourley.

Dominique said she believes the vehicle was targeted following an alleged threat made to 24-year-old Mr Gourley in connection with what she described as a family feud.

She added that she was "still in shock" following the early morning blaze.

"I'm just glad everybody is safe, everybody is still alive," she told the Belfast Telegraph. "We are now determined to get out of here. We woke up in the early hours of this morning when we heard the fire alarm going off. There was smoke everywhere."

A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said: "Occupants were trapped inside their flats due to smoke from a motorcycle set alight in the communal hallway. Firefighters from Westland and Springfield Fire Stations rescued seven people using breathing apparatus and ladders, while fighting the fire with hosereel jets.

"NIAS treated occupants on scene for smoke inhalation and there has been damage to the communal hall and doors of flats."

A Housing Executive spokesperson said: "Our staff and contractors are on-site at the moment assessing damage and identifying the immediate needs of tenants. We would like to express our thanks to the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service for its prompt and professional response."

Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service added: "Thankfully due to working smoke alarms, the advice given by controls staff and the swift actions of firefighters, all occupants have now been safely rescued from the flats."

The PSNI has appealed for any witnesses to the incident to contact officers at Tennent Street station on 101 quoting reference 163 of 02/01/18.

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