Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters rescue four including baby from Belfast flats blaze

Fire officers who rescued a baby from an apartment block blaze have been hailed as heroes.

The officers, wearing breathing apparatus, led a family to safety after the fire took hold in a building in the Braniel estate in east Belfast.

Tracy Ground, mother of three-month-old Jude, told of the terrifying moments when she thought she was trapped by the flames and believed she would have to lower her son from a first-floor window.

She said: “I had awoken just before 8am to get his bottles ready and went into the kitchen to put the kettle on. The light on the kettle flicked off and the light in the hall was flickering as well.

“When I was walking back into the hall there was a burning smell.”

The fire started in an electricity meter box in the hall of the block of flats yesterday morning.

“At this point I was just panicking about my baby. I wanted to |get him out and we had put him in his car seat and were planning to tie scarves together to get him down, but we couldn’t get his car seat out the window, it was too big,” she said.

She contacted the emergency services who stayed on the line and calmed her down until the Fire Service arrived and led them to safety.

Fire Service group commander Alan Walmsley attended the scene with around 16 officers. They rescued four people.

“The call came from the people who were trapped upstairs,” said Mr Walmsley. “When the Fire Service arrived we very quickly entered the building and went upstairs to rescue the family.

“We had an elderly lady shouting on the ground floor where the fire started and by that stage it was breaking into her bedroom. We took the lady out through the window in the ground floor property and the family were brought down the staircase.”

He added that the residents were in shock but he was happy there were no injuries and everyone had got out safely.

“I have been to two fatal fires over Christmas and in both of those properties when we tested the fire alarms they were not working. This is a good example of how a smoke alarm can save lives,” he said.

Ms Ground and her family were taken to the Ulster Hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation.

She thanked emergency services for their quick response but demanded to know why there was no smoke alarm in the public hallway where the fire started.

Her ground-floor neighbour Stella Collins was also rescued by firefighters.

She was in bed and heard an alarm sounding and assumed it was her alarm clock, but the 79-year-old quickly realised there was a fire.

She went out into the hallway to alert her neighbours but had to retreat from the thick smoke and became trapped until the emergency services arrived.

Elderly neighbour Olive Brookes (92) was in her flat on the first floor when the fire broke out but she managed to escape by herself.

Volunteers from the Red Cross were on hand to help everyone affected, including surrounding neighbours whose electricity supply was cut off after the incident.

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