Belfast Telegraph

Fire chief recalls 'iconic image' of clock burning one year on from Primark fire

The Fire Service's Officer in Charge on the day of the Primark Fire has recalled the battle to save the historic Bank Buildings from ruin.

Area Commander Aidan Jennings was speaking ahead of the first anniversary of the fire on Wednesday. 

The August 28 fire at Primark's Castle Street building resulted in a four-day operation to extinguish the fire, with over 300 firefighters involved.

Nobody was injured during the fire and work is currently ongoing to rebuild the historic Bank Buildings.

A number of businesses in the vicinity of the store were forced to close their doors as a result of the devastating fire and part of Belfast city centre was sealed off for months.    

The exact cause of the fire has yet to be revealed with a Health and Safety Executive investigation still ongoing. Earlier this year the fire service confirmed that it had been started accidentally.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said it wanted to thank firefighters, support staff, partner agencies and the community for their response and support during the fire.

Mr Jennings was the Officer in Charge on the day of the fire and said the effort to save the building would remain with him forever.

"I will remember this incident for the expertise, resilience and dedication of firefighters and staff right across NIFRS as well as the outpouring of kindness, generosity and public – spiritedness," he said.

"This underpinned and helped reinforce our operational response to this incident.  As ever the resilience of the people of Belfast was matched by the action and support they offered."

1_NEWS_-_Primark_Fi.jpg
Aidan Jennings Belfast Area Commander of the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service. Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

At one point over 100 firefighters and 14 fire appliances, including six specialist appliances, tackled the blaze.

Mr Jennings praised those who worked behind the scenes while the fire raged.

“The size, scope and intensity of this fire provided many challenges and I can vividly recall that iconic image of the clock in Bank Buildings burning and the impact that had on our personnel working so hard to save the building," he said.

“On a number of occasions that afternoon firefighters had to be withdrawn from internal firefighting operations within the building to prevent injury or loss of life due to escalating fire conditions and collapsing structure. Thankfully we were able to re-enter and establish the fire break within the protected staircases.

“Working in extra ordinary and challenging circumstances firefighters protected this area and are to be highly commended for their diligent efforts in preventing the fire spreading allowing the refurbished rear extension of the building and adjacent properties to be saved."

Mr Jennings paid tribute to Primark staff for their actions on the day.

Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Compsite showing the fire from 11:06 am to 4:35 pm Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service are attending an incident in Belfast city centre.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service are attending an incident in Belfast city centre.
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)
Firefighters deal with a major blaze at Primark in Belfast on August 28th 2018 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

“Primark staff must also be commended for their swift action in evacuating the building prior to the arrival of firefighters. Their actions undoubtedly helped save lives that day enabling the first responding crews to focus on dealing with the developing blaze," he said.

"In large part due to our work in fire prevention and safety, large incidents like the Bank Buildings fire are rare. However, if they do occur, NIFRS is always prepared to respond quickly and effectively.

"Our contingency plans and resilience built into our operational response ensures that as a fire and rescue service we are always ready to respond to any incident across Northern Ireland.”

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