Belfast Telegraph

Five families now out of their homes thanks to huge bonfire that set houses' roofs ablaze

By Rebecca Black

Five families have now had to move out of their homes after a bonfire on a Shankill estate set a number of houses ablaze.

The pyre at Hopewell Square was lit just after midnight on July 12. Sparks from the towering bonfire, located on a large green between rows of houses, rained down upon rooftops before one property caught fire.

Residents, including a 72-year-old woman and her two-year-old great-granddaughter and a young family, were evacuated from their homes as firefighters tackled the blaze.

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Three of the houses were gutted, while a further two sustained smoke damage.

A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive said five families had since been forced to leave their homes.

While they were offered temporary accommodation, they are all staying with relatives.

An online fundraising effort to help the affected families replace their belongings has gathered in excess of £1,100.

Lord Mayor Brian Kingston, who has visited the victims several times since the bonfire, said the houses had been boarded up, but he added that the current assessment was that they could be repaired and eventually brought back into use.

But Ian McLaughlin, from the Lower Shankill Community Association, which has been helping affected residents, added: "The families are still quite distressed. It is absolutely terrible how it ended up.

"We complied very much with the criteria in the bonfire management scheme. The Fire Service have already said that the bonfire was within the regulations of being 50 metres away from the houses.

"It ended up being a pure accident that the embers blew into the roof space of a house.

"Now, we are just trying to help the affected families and do everything we can with the Housing Executive to try to get the people a house."

A spokeswoman from the Housing Executive said its staff were in the middle of assessing the damage.

"Five families were affected by the fire," she added. "Offers of temporary accommodation were made, but each of the residents have made their own arrangements. Staff at the local office remain in contact with those affected regarding ongoing housing need.

"A structural engineer has assessed the damage, and our staff are currently assessing the repairs required for each of the properties.

"Three properties have extensive fire damage and two have smoke damage."

Pensioner Lily Turtle (72) was in her bed when the embers set her roof on fire. Luckily, her daughter and other family members saw what was happening and rescued her from the blaze.

Mrs Turtle told the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week: "My hearing isn't that good, so I didn't hear it at the start.

"I am so shocked about what happened. I have been living here for more than 20 years. My grandson got me out."

The pensioner added that neighbours had rallied and helped in whatever way they could since the fire.

Alan Walmsley, from the Fire and Rescue Service, told the BBC that crews were at the incident in Hopewell Square very quickly, and that their hard work had prevented a row of terraced houses from being destroyed.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph