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North Belfast oil tank blaze could have seen whole row of houses go up in flames, says firefighter

A potential disaster has been avoided in a residential area of north Belfast after a passing fire crew spotted smoke billowing from behind a house.

An oil tank behind the property in the York Park area caught fire shortly before midday on Thursday. An elderly couple were in the house at the time but escaped uninjured with the help of neighbours.

When the Belfast Telegraph visited the scene, four fire appliances and more than a dozen firefighters were tackling the blaze. The street was cordoned off.

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Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

One firefighter said his crew had been passing the street by chance and noticed dark smoke billowing into the sky. If they had not been nearby, he said the entire row of houses could have easily gone up in flames.

It is understood a spark from a device may have started the blaze. As the oil tank was very close to the back of the house, it caused significant damage to the outside of the property. An oil tank next door also caught fire as flames spread.

Fire crews were quickly able to bring matters under control to ensure the safety of residents.

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Ulster Unionist representative Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston said the incident could have resulted in a loss of life.

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Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

"The back gardens of these terraced houses are very small, so the oil tanks are very close together and close to the properties," she said.

"Thankfully, the elderly occupants managed to escape uninjured and are being supported by neighbours, but they are understandably very shaken.

"This is a close-knit community and I know their friends and neighbours will rally around them and make sure they are looked after. It looks like the property could be out of use for some time and we're in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, so that is obviously going to have a massive impact.

"I would also thank the Fire Service for their quick response, as this easily could have been much worse and someone could have been killed."

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Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Firefighters battle an oil tank fire in York Park in north Belfast on July 14, 2022 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph)

Alliance councillor Micky Murray attended the scene after spotting the smoke.

"While no one was hurt, residents were visibly shaken and concerned for the well-being of the residents of the house," he said.

"I’m sure the residents will be extremely anxious about the damage and future works. This was a perfect display of community, with neighbours caring for the residents and making sure they had everything they needed.

"The Fire Service was quick to act and had everything under control in a matter of minutes."

The NI Fire and Rescue Service said two appliances from Whitla Fire Station, one from Westland and one from Central Fire Station attended the incident.


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