Man arrested on suspicion of arson after blaze forces Belfast families to flee home
Elderly people and a baby were among the dozens who were evacuated from their homes following a blaze in north Belfast yesterday morning.
A man was arrested on suspicion of arson after a woman and two young children were rescued from their home.
The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service was called to Jellicoe Avenue in Fortwilliam in the early hours yesterday after a car fire spread to a gas box and to the eaves of a semi-detached house.
A woman in her 50s and two children aged eight and 13 were rescued from the house. They were uninjured.
Dozens of other residents were woken from their sleep and forced to leave their homes.
Many spent most of the night in the Grove Wellbeing Centre while others went to relatives' homes for shelter as firefighters tackled the blaze.
A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson endangering life with intent following the incident.
Police first received a report that a car had been set on fire shortly after 1am.
Significant damage was caused to the vehicle and a fence as a result of the blaze.
Two fire appliances were sent to the address as police officers helped evacuate the area.
Firefighters remained on the scene until 4am and the cause of the blaze is now under investigation.
Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne was at the scene from the early hours.
He spoke to residents at Grove Leisure Centre which was used as a temporary shelter for residents including elderly people and a baby.
The Belfast councillor said: "People were lying in their beds when they heard a knock on their door and told to get out of bed and out of their homes because there was a gas leak.
"Most people didn't know much more than that."
Mr Browne continued: "I got a message from the council shortly after it happened and went straight up to find firefighters at the house.
"I understand that a car crashed into a wall and it had busted a pipe and went on fire.
"It was a serious fire and was a distressing experience for people coming out of their homes at that time of night." The councillor added: "There were a lot of older people forced to leave their homes.
"There were three families with dogs and a woman who had to take her young baby out of bed.
"I must commend all those who helped after the incident, council staff, fire service, and the police and social services.
"They did well to evacuate people and keep it well organised."