Carpetright store fire in east Belfast 'started by youths'
There are suspicions that a major fire at a furniture showroom on Saturday was started by two youths, a councillor has said.
Police confirmed this was one line of inquiry into the blaze that gutted Carpetright and caused smoke damage to two adjacent stores at the Connswater complex in east Belfast. No one was hurt in the incident.
UUP councillor Jim Rodgers was at the scene from shortly after the fire broke out at around 1.45pm until it was extinguished several hours later.
Carpetright, Halfords and Pound World remained closed yesterday as police continued to work to establish the cause of the fire.
It is unclear when the stores will reopen.
Mr Rodgers said: "The cause of the fire is unknown but there are rumours circulating that two youths were asked to leave Halfords for messing about.
"They were later seen acting suspiciously in Carpetright.
"The call to the police reporting the fire was also put in by two youths. It is such a disappointing incident.
"A carpet shop is an ideal place for someone who wants to start a fire due to the highly flammable materials inside. This is why many furniture and carpet stores were destroyed during the Troubles.
"It is such an economic blow to the area. I just hope that the staff are relocated and don't have to look for new jobs."
It took 40 firefighters to extinguish the blaze, described as "very severe and extremely dangerous" by the Fire and Rescue Service's Alan Walmsley.
Mr Walmsley added: "While we are dealing with damage to the local economy and the retail unit, thankfully there were no severe injuries or loss of life."