Belfast Telegraph

Dunmurry tower block fire: I am so grateful to girl who got us out of the flat as I was just numb, reveals pensioner (81)

By Kate Buck

Residents affected by the tower block fire in Dunmurry returned to their homes yesterday afternoon.

The acrid smell of burnt plastic hung in the air as a reminder of the terrifying blaze on Wednesday that, fortunately, did not claim any lives. 

Coolmoyne House tenants and their families went back armed with buckets and mops to clean up and attempt to get back to some form of normality. 

Outside the high-rise the damage was clear, and firefighters could be seen carrying out their investigations.

It is believed the blaze was started by a burning toaster in a flat on the ninth floor occupied by a single man in his 50s.

He was the only person taken to hospital as a result of smoke inhalation. He remains in a stable condition.

Of the 56 flats in the block, 16 were unfit for residents to return to. Those people either stayed with relatives or were put up in hotels by the Housing Executive.

Firefighters had to break through the doors of at least six flats in an effort to ensure nobody was trapped inside.

Margaret Forsythe (81) was forced to flee her seventh-storey home of 40 years when a neighbour warned her of the blaze raging just two floors above.

Although it wasn't damaged by flames or smoke, Ms Forsythe is unable to return because of water damage from the hoses used to put out the fire.

Margaret Forsythe (81)
Margaret Forsythe (81)
The door of the flat where the blaze broke out
The smoke damage from the 9th floor fire in Coolmooyne House in Dunmurray
The smoke damage from the 9th floor fire in Coolmooyne House in Dunmurray
The door of the flat where the blaze broke out, and (right) Margaret back in her home to collect items
The secene of the fire

Her carpets have been left sodden, and blackened watermarks trail the walls from the light switches (below), meaning that, for now, her home is uninhabitable and she is having to live with her sister on the other side of the city.

The former civil servant in the Department of Agriculture suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which can be exacerbated by smoke.

She was allowed to visit her flat yesterday afternoon with niece Karen Curlett (50) to collect necessities.

Speaking in her living room, the still shocked pensioner said that in the 40 years she had lived in the block she had never experienced anything like it.

She explained: "I was sitting with my sister in my flat having dinner and was just about to make a cup of tea, but my intercom went off and when I went to the door there was a lady there who told me: 'You better get out Margaret because there's a fire'.

"My sister and I had to take the lift, and when we got out there was burnt stuff falling on to the ground.

"I don't know what was going through my head, I was just numb."

When the pair emerged on to the street Margaret had to take shelter in a nearby car as she is unable to stand for long.

Thankfully, her family came to her rescue and she was able to stay with her great nephew until the damage could be assessed. Margaret added: "I wouldn't be without my family and it's good that my sister was here that night because I would have panicked and wouldn't have known what to do.

"I feel so grateful for the girl who knocked on my door and the intercom was going mad, so they must have been ringing everybody to give them the warning about the fire."

She added she was just happy nobody was killed or badly injured in the blaze.

"It's lucky there was nobody really hurt," she said.

The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The blaze in Dunmurry
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson Presseye
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry

"I got away in time so I wasn't too poorly.

"I love my wee flat. I'm comfortable here and when I go to bed at night and lock my door I feel safe. It was a bit of a shock to be honest, because we were just sat watching the television.

"We've got a fire alarm but it didn't go off.

"My smoke alarm goes off very easily but it didn't work last night. I probably will still feel safe when I come back. But I hope I am not out of it too long."

Karen said the fact that the fire alarms were silent could have had fatal consequences on Wednesday night.

She told the Belfast Telegraph: "The police were lovely and brought us into the flat and showed us around with a torch to get her medication that she needed for the night.

"The Housing Executive have been very good and informative and have let us in to get her clothes because she's now out of her home.

"Margaret can't live here because there's no electric, no heat and everything's soaking.

"The alarm went straight to the fire brigade, but how quick does a fire have to take before lives are lost?

"The firefighters were amazing but you just don't know how quick the fire could take hold.

"They were here in no time and were able to contain it, but it could have been so much worse."

Belfast Telegraph

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