Belfast Telegraph

Veteran firefighter turned MLA heaps praise on emergency services following Primark fire

An Ulster Unionist Party MLA, who previously worked as a firefighter, has spoken out to praise the efforts of the emergency services in tackling the Primark blaze.

The historic building on Belfast's Castle Street was gutted on Tuesday as fire ripped through every floor of the building leading to the collapse of the roof and multiple floors.

The building had been undergoing a large expansion and the future of the estimated 350 staff remains unclear.

Firefighters and other emergency services remain at the scene of the blaze and the operation is expected to continue into a third day.

Speaking from experience Ulster Unionist MLA Robbie Butler praised the heroic efforts of those involved.

“I served 16 years in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) and from my past experience, the work that all the Emergency Services carried out, especially the NIFRS, is worthy of praise," the Lagan Valley MLA said.

"It is clear that there was a very high level of inter-agency co-operation. When faced with the unprecedented scale of a fire such as this, it is no mean feat to walk towards the danger zone to bring it under control. It certainly isn't for the faint hearted.

“Our immediate concern must now be for the staff of Primark and other businesses who have been effected by this huge fire in the centre of Belfast. It is sometimes easy to forget just how far reaching the impact of an event such as this can be.

“This was a fire of huge scale and given the extent of it, I am thankful that no-one was seriously injured. This was also due to Primark staff who helped evacuate the building and lead customers and colleagues to a place of safety.

Mr Butler recalled a similar fire he had been involved in tackling during his time with the NIFRS.

“I would also like to make special mention of Assistant Chief Fire Officer Michael Graham and his team for their heroic and professional work," he said.

“This event brought back vivid memories of the biggest fire I was ever called to back in 2004, close to Primark, in what was Waterstones and Goldsmith`s Jewellers. I was a Sector Commander at the incident and can bear testimony to the bravery of our frontline Emergency Services, especially our firefighters, in operating under the type of stressful conditions that existed in Belfast City Centre on Tuesday.

“Very often the unseen and unthanked heroes at events like this are volunteers and it would be remiss not to acknowledge the role of voluntary organisations such as the Rapid Response Team from East Belfast Mission who throughout the protracted incident provided much needed and appreciated sustenance to the emergency responders.

"The actions of all these people cumulatively working together demonstrate all that is best about Northern Ireland whenever we are faced with adversity.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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