Belfast Telegraph

Dundrum fire: Petrified elderly woman rescued from smoke-filled home

By Claire Williamson

A man has described the moment he rescued a petrified elderly woman from her smoke-filled home as an extensive blaze took hold and spread to several houses in Dundrum.

A scene of "devastation" has been left behind following the fire that destroyed a house and damaged several others in Co Down.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue were called to an "extensive blaze" in Church Avenue after midnight on Sunday morning.

The fire had spread to several oil tanks and eight properties were evacuated but there were no reports of any injuries.

Fifty-two firefighters were tasked to the scene and brought the extensive blaze under control. An investigation is underway.

The BBC reports that two pigeon lofts were caught up in the blaze and sixty birds were killed as a result.

The home that was destroyed was vacant.

Tributes have been paid to a young man who raised the alarm and helped save his neighbours.

Nathan Murray (21) was home from university for Christmas and was among the first to raise the alarm after noticing the sparks of the fire and immediately ran out to alert others.

Among those he helped was an elderly woman who had been friends with his late grandmother.

His grandmother who passed away earlier this year had lived in the house that was destroyed.

Nathan found the elderly lady standing in a smoke-filled house as she was in a desperate panic trying to gather her treasured belongings such as precious photographs.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that it was a joint effort and many neighbours were helping each other as it's a tight knit area.

He was in his aunt's house catching up with family when they noticed sparks.

"My cousin's friend had seen sparks, but we couldn't see them.  About five minutes later we looked out again and the whole pigeon loft four rows down was up in fire," he said.

"I ran out of the house and ran round and the people were already coming out of that house. Another guy was going round to check if it was getting the oil tanks.

"I ran back round to wake my dad up because it was getting close to his back window and my neighbour's. The window of his house started cracking and it broke and he had to get out because all the smoke was getting in.

"I saw it catching my late granny's house, hers was the one that got the worst of it, it caught right through.

"I ran round to my granny's best friend's house and she was petrified, she's in her 80s and I just told her to get whatever she needed quickly.

"She was trying to get stuff she didn't need. I just told her to get out and she got her savings and her pictures and we left. The smoke was that dark that we couldn't see."

Nathan then went back to wake his neighbour as the emergency services arrived.

"He was sleeping and was hard to get up so I had to hit his door a good few times

"After that it grew and grew and people were all out of their houses and we were just making sure everyone was out and then the fire brigade arrived."

He added: "Everybody was helping everbody. It's a tight neighbourhood so everybody was out helping. If it had have been at four in the morning it would've been a different story because nobody would have been up."

Resident Michael Gibb told the BBC that he wouldn't have been alive if it wasn't for Nathan waking him.

He said: "I'm glad to be alive. It if wasn't for my next door neighbour's son, I probably wouldn't be alive."

SDLP councillor Mark Murnin told the Belfast Telegraph it was a "scene of devastation" and said it was "unbelievable that no-one was killed".

"It's devastating. That's the only way you can describe it - how no-one lost their life is unbelievable", he said.

He added: "Last night’s fire seems to have started in an outbuilding. It quickly ripped through a vacant property and has left others uninhabitable today. It’s just an unimaginable situation for families that have been forced from their homes on Christmas Eve.

"I want to pay tribute to the actions of local people last night. They noticed the fire when it was still very small, contacted the Fire and Rescue Service immediately and started alerting their neighbours. I have no doubt that their quick thinking, combined with the heroism of the fifty two firefighters who, in the face of high winds at the scene last night, averted an ever greater tragedy this morning.

"We will do whatever we can to help these families rebuild and make it through the Christmas period."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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