Belfast Telegraph

Woman’s lucky escape after flames from torched caravan spread to home

The aftermath of the caravan blaze on Lagmore Avenue yesterday
The aftermath of the caravan blaze on Lagmore Avenue yesterday
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

A west Belfast mother whose home was severely damaged in an arson attack has said she would be dead if her neighbour had not come to her rescue.

The Lagmore Avenue resident had fallen asleep on the sofa at around 12am yesterday.

A short time later she was woken by the frantic screams of a neighbour who managed to gain access to the property and drag her out as a caravan burned in the driveway.

"The flames were roaring," the mum-of-two recalled.

"It went up like a matchbox; someone must have poured petrol all over it.

"The whole driveway was ablaze. My neighbour saved my life."

The 47-year-old's house was badly scorched in the blaze that destroyed the unoccupied caravan.

The front windows of the property cracked and melted in the intense heat, which allowed smoke to billow inside and cause extensive damage.

"It all happened so quick," the woman added.

"I'm just so thankful that my neighbour got me and the wee dog out.

"Jacko usually barks if someone comes up the driveway but he didn't make a peep."

The 15-year-old Jack Russell has also been left badly shaken following the attack, which caused damage to her neighbour's home.

"The lady next door lives there with her husband and three kids," she said.

"One of them is a wee baby who had to be woken up.

"They were terrified of the flames, which were going up into the rafters.

"The entire street could have gone up."

The woman, who lives with her 23-year-old daughter, said the damage would have been worse if there had been a gas canister in the caravan.

"Thankfully there wasn't or the whole thing would have exploded," she added.

She believes those responsible were targeting someone else.

However, she is now considering her options before she meets with housing officers on Monday.

"It's mad around here and it's only getting worse," she said.

"There's a big problem with drugs, which is affecting so many young people. I think a lot of people will move out of this area. I'm going to be seriously weighing up my future over the next couple of days."

The PSNI said police received a report that a caravan was on fire at around 1.30am yesterday before they attended the scene with a Fire and Rescue Service crew.

"NIFRS has deemed this to be deliberate, and so we are treating it as arson at this time," it added.

"This was a reckless act and it's fortunate no one was injured."

Sinn Fein councillor Daniel Baker condemned the attack which he said could have ended in tragedy.

"Residents are shocked and angry," he said.

"If it wasn't for the fast actions of neighbours who raised the alarm we would have had a very different outcome this morning.

"The quick response from the emergency services saved properties from catching fire."

People in the area spoke of their shock. One branded the attack as "disgraceful".

The victim added: "It was such a scary night, it could have been such different scenes if the neighbours weren't so brilliant in helping us."

Detectives have appealed for anyone with information or who may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area to contact police on 101, quoting reference 69 of 14/06/19.

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