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Residents speak of fears after large fire erupts at Derry's Foyle Port

Residents living near Foyle Port where a significant fire broke out in a grain store on Wednesday morning say they were terrified as they watched the flames and thick, black smoke spiral into the air.

Geraldine Devine who witnessed the blaze from her home in the Clonmeen Drive area of Strathfoyle said they were saved from the effects of smoke inhalation by the way the wind was blowing.

The Fire Service were alerted to the blaze shortly before 11am on Tuesday morning when a total of 12 appliances and 46 firefighters helped bring the fire under control.

Around 150 civil service workers were evacuated from the Department for Communities building close to the site, however residents were not asked to leave their homes.

Ms Devine said: "I looked out the window and could see the black, black smoke rising into the air and then the flame shooting up so I knew it was something really bad.

"I knew we were not in immediate danger because of the way the wind was blowing but it was terrifying to watch and we were worried in case the wind did change direction.

"I knew to close our windows and not go outside but my main concern was what was burning and I was afraid it was something that could have exploded or it was something toxic. I have heard since that is was a grain shed and thankfully the fire service were here quickly and brought it under control."

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Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Paul Hughes from the Enagh Youth Forum based in Strathfoyle said the fire highlights concerns residents have raised on many occasions about the effect of living surrounded by industry on their health and safety which was the subject of a study carried out by Ben Cave and Associates Ltd, commissioned by the former Derry City Council.

He said: "From the local community's perspective our biggest concern is that this is not the first time there has been a fire in that store over the past few years, albeit there has never been a fire on this scale before.

"We would appeal to Foyle Port and Derry and Strabane Council to explore the recommendations that were outlined in the Ben Cave Health Impact Study of 2015 which looked at emergency procedures and evacuations around fire.

"We have raised concerns before about pollution and emissions from existing industry in this area and a fire like this will only add to it.

"Visibility here for the first few hours of this fire was very poor and even when we arrived here at the scene, the smoke was so thick we had to move away.

"Luckily enough the wind is taking the smoke away from the houses but had that not been the case we would have been looking at a major residential evacuation of a couple of hundred people."

Alliance Party councillor, Rachel Ferguson, who is also a Commissioner at the Foyle Port and Harbour, said: "I live close by and as soon as I saw the billowing smoke and I could see where it was coming from.

"When I arrived on scene I was made aware it was at the Port and I was informed by the CEO of Foyle Port, Brian McGrath that the Fire Service is dealing with the situation.

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Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Fire crews at the scene of a large fire at Foyle Port outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Fire crews at the scene of a large fire at Foyle Port outside Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

Smoke rises over Foyle Port at Strathfoyle outside Derry where a large fire is being tackled by the Fire Service. Picture Martin McKeown. 29.07.20

"The fire was in one of our sheds and was brought under control by the Fire Service.

"All staff as far as I am aware were evacuated from the site and we continue to work with the NIFS to establish the cause."

Belfast Telegraph