Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland housing bosses facing safety quiz over 33 high-rises

By Victoria Leonard

The Housing Executive is facing fresh questions over fire safety measures at its 33 high-rise buildings in Northern Ireland in the wake of the Dunmurry tower block blaze.

Terrified residents of Coolmoyne House feared they were facing a Grenfell-type tragedy after a fire broke out on the ninth floor of the 14-storey building on Wednesday night.

The blaze, believed to have been accidentally caused by a toaster, burst through the windows on two sides of Coolmoyne House and led to the evacuation of around 100 tenants from 56 flats.

The fire happened just over five months after the Grenfell Tower inferno which claimed 71 lives in London.

Firefighters rescued the man whose flat caught fire in Coolmoyne House and paramedics tended to four patients.

Last night, a man remained in a stable condition in Lagan Valley Hospital, while a woman was discharged.

Residents of Coolmoyne House branded the lack of audible fire alarms in parts of the building "a disgrace" and said questions needed to be answered by the Housing Executive.

Seventh-floor resident Sarah Ritchie (71), who helped to evacuate a neighbour in her 80s - who had been unaware of the danger - from the block, said she "didn't sleep for worrying" after being allowed back into her home at around 9pm. "The smell of the smoke is terrible, and some flats have terrible water and smoke damage," she revealed.

She added: "I would have expected the building to have audible communal fire alarms, especially after Grenfell, and I'm worried that without one we could burn to death in a future incident.

"Everyone wants audible fire alarms installed in the communal areas".

The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The blaze in Dunmurry
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson Presseye
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry

Yesterday DUP leader Arlene Foster visited the scene to survey the damage to the scorched tower.

Praising the "speedy response" of the emergency services, agencies and voluntary organisations, Mrs Foster said she was "grateful for no fatalities".

The Seymour Hill & Conway Residents Association and Youth Council has set up a crowdfunding page to assist victims who "lost everything" in the blaze. A Housing Executive spokeswoman said it took residents' safety "extremely seriously".

She said: "We work closely with the Fire Service to ensure we remain fully compliant with all fire safety regulations, have robust fire safety regimes and carry out regular inspections in all of our high-rise buildings.

"In Coolmoyne, each of the 56 flats has two smoke alarms and one heat detector alarm installed. The communal hallways are fitted with a silent smoke detection system, which is monitored 24 hours a day.

"Yesterday's fire was contained to one flat, which was severely damaged. Seventeen other flats were impacted, primarily by water damage and a small number with smoke damage.

"Our response maintenance staff worked overnight on a clean-up operation and our contractors are on site today again, going door to door ensuring the electrics are safe in each home."

Three Coolmoyne House residents were placed in overnight accommodation at a hotel on Wednesday. It was hoped they would be able to return to their homes yesterday.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service group commander Geoff Somerville said there was "no legal requirement" for Coolmoyne House to have audible communal fire alarms, and the existing system was "appropriate" for the regulations in place when the tower was built.

Belfast Telegraph

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph