Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland student hero who helped to evacuate residents in Bolton blaze relives night of drama

Kate Farren from Ballykelly, who helped people escape a fire at The Cube building in Bolton
Kate Farren from Ballykelly, who helped people escape a fire at The Cube building in Bolton
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A Northern Ireland student who evacuated residents caught up in a major fire in Bolton has spoken of her shock at the sudden blaze.

The Cube Building in Bolton normally houses around 220 residents and was gutted by flames on Friday night.

Paramedics treated two people at the scene and an investigation into the cause of the fire is under way.

Like many residents, Kate Farren (21) from Ballykelly had been getting ready for a night out when she realised the danger.

The sports rehabilitation student raised the alarm when a friend knocked on her sixth-floor door around 8.30pm to say they could smell smoke.

At this stage, only a tiny flame was visible outside but that soon engulfed the building.

It would take 200 firefighters using 40 fire engines over nine hours to bring it under control.

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Ms Farren's training as a student fire warden kicked in and she immediately ran down the hall to bang on doors and activate the alarm system.

Not even taking the time to put on shoes, she said the rush to get everyone to safety was "a blur of adrenaline".

"It didn't really hit me till I was out," she said.

The fire at The Cube building in Bolton
The fire at The Cube building in Bolton

"My room is at the back of the building and I could see it catch fire and that's when I really knew it was going up in flames.

"It was a Friday night, there were people outside with wet hair and you could tell they were just out of the shower.

"I know one of my friends had a concussion, had taken medication and was asleep in bed.

"So the only way he would have known about the fire was by someone banging loudly on his door."

She added: "The only thing I had with me was a pair of flared trousers and a crop top on, I didn't even have my shoes. Everything else just went up in flames.

"Then I was thinking, 'Do I ring home, do I worry them' - but I knew by then they would see it on the news so I had to ring them first.

"At that point, I knew the extent of how bad it was, that we weren't getting back into the building, it was gone."

The evacuated students are now staying in temporary accommodation funded by the university.

"Loads of people have also donated clothes, even hairdryers and the things you forget that you need," Ms Farren said.

Still processing the dramatic events of Friday night, she said: "It just comes in waves, the shock hits in every now and then. It's just crazy, I'm just glad that everyone got out safe - that was the main priority at the time."

Salford's mayor Paul Dennett has been among those to praise her quick reaction.

"Thank you to the firefighters and officers, emergency services and the student ambassadors Kate and Jude who showed such bravery helping people evacuate," he said on Twitter.

David Greenhalgh, leader of Bolton Council, said "the immediate evacuation made an incredible difference".

The Cube was among a number of high rise buildings examined after the Grenfell tragedy in 2017 in which 72 people died.

Concerns have been raised about the cladding used on the Cube building, although it is a different material to the now banned material used outside Grenfell.

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