Fire service: Crumlin Road Courthouse blaze was deliberate
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service is treating a blaze at the old Crumlin Road Courthouse in Belfast as deliberate.
The fire service was called to the scene shortly after 5pm on Tuesday and firefighters were met with a "well developed" fire in the basement area of the building.
At the height of the blaze, seven fire appliances and 30 firefighters from across Belfast were in attendance, along with a high-reach aerial appliance.
Six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus using three jets and thermal imaging cameras extinguished the fire within two hours.
NIFRS personnel, however, were still on the site as of 8pm to deal with smoke which had travelled to the Crumlin Road Gaol, which is connected to the courthouse by an underground tunnel.
NIFRS group commander William Johnson hit out at those responsible.
"This is the fourth time we have been called to the Crumlin Road Courthouse in the last week-and-a-half. Our investigations tell us this latest incident was a deliberate ignition by fire starters," he said.
"These actions put our firefighters at unnecessary risk. The building itself is in very poor condition, with unstable ceilings and missing floors, making it extremely dangerous.
"I would like to appeal to the public to report any suspicious behaviour at the courthouse to the authorities. I would also appeal to the individuals who started this fire - dealing with these reckless actions means the fire service has less cover for north and west Belfast.
"Because of incidents like these, we are unable to attend other emergencies and people's lives could be put at risk."
The courthouse dates back to 1850 and is one of Belfast's most iconic buildings.
Last September, Belfast City Council approved plans to transform the building into a £10m, 77-bed hotel.
This is not the first time a fire has struck Crumlin Road Courthhouse. Back in 2009 the building was almost completely destroyed by a blaze.
Another fire in 2015 also caused minor damage to the building, which the Fire Service said was started deliberately.
Belfast Telegraph Digital