'Everything was gone in a split second' - pals tell how arson attack gutted home
Two men who "lost everything" when their Co Antrim house was set on fire are grateful to be alive following the terrifying blaze which completely destroyed the property.
Davey McCrum (40) and his pal Ian Wilson (37) were both at home in Newtownabbey on Saturday afternoon when they thought they heard rain.
They were forced to flee the Birchmount property with a 15-week-old puppy just before 1.30pm when they realised it was actually the sound of their home burning down around them.
"I was in the living room drinking a cup of tea and thought I heard falling rain, but there was a clear blue sky outside," Mr McCrum recalled.
"Then I saw flames and foolishly ran upstairs and tried to close the window.
"I ended up breathing a good bit of smoke in and could feel the heat on my hand.
"Then the window cracked before completely exploding allowing smoke to come billowing in.
"I didn't realise how quickly this can happen, everything was gone in a split second.
"I am just so glad no one was injured."
Mr Wilson was lying on his bed sending work emails when he was alerted to the unfolding danger by the screams of his friend.
"I thought I heard rain too and when I jumped up I expected to see a flood," he said.
"When saw flames I just ran and grabbed the wee puppy and got out.
"The flames were higher than the house.
"It was really scary."
Extensive damage was also caused to an adjacent house.
It is understood a young couple and their small children have been forced to vacate the property after it caught fire, which led to part of the roof collapsing.
The PSNI said NI Fire and Rescue Service colleagues had carried out an assessment and believe that a recycling bin to the rear of the houses was set alight.
The traumatised occupants of the destroyed house believe the blaze was so intense because oil tanks next to each property caught fire.
"We put over 300 litres in just the other week," Mr Wilson said.
"I think the oil tank next door also went up.
"Once the tank melted, the oil would have been oozing everywhere and it was on a bit of a slant."
However, both men said knowing how the fire started is irrelevant when it comes to picking up the pieces.
"We do a lot of mountain climbing and our equipment is gone," Mr McCrum said.
"We have no clothes, we don't have a toothbrush.
"It all happened in the blink of an eye.
"But it's a life lesson - it could have been so much worse and are just happy we got out on time."
The two friends, who are now staying with their partners, have been relying on loved ones since their home was gutted.
They also lost their vehicles in the arson attack.
"My Range Rover Sport is more or less destroyed," Mr Wilson said.
Mr McCrum, who was supposed to be attending his surprise 40th birthday party on Saturday night, lost his van.
"It looks like a tin can," the care worker said.
"But we can rise from the ashes, what other choice do we have?"
However, he said he will think twice before moving into a property with an oil heating system.
"I think I'll try gas next time," Mr McCrum added.
He confirmed that little Wolfie, a Yorkshire Terrier pup, escaped unharmed and is being well looked after.
The fire also damaged an electricity substation leaving people living nearby without a source of power.
Last night Northern Ireland Electricity said 50 customers were without power but that it intended to have it restored before the end of the day.
Detectives investigating the incident have appealed for witnesses to contact them on 101.