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Thirty lose their homes in blaze

By Emily Moulton

Up to 30 people have lost their homes after a fire ripped through a three-storey block of flats in Co Down yesterday.

Four people had to be rescued and taken to hospital after a blaze broke out on the top floor of the Housing Executive building on Loughside Drive in Ballynahinch just after 3.30pm.

An elderly man who lived on the bottom floor had to be carried out of the building by firefighters after being overcome with smoke and another man, who was trapped inside the flat where the fire is believed to have started, was rescued by the Ambulance Service before fire crews arrived.

Two other residents, who were trapped on the third floor, were also rescued after receiving directions from the Fire and Rescue Service control room.

The occupants had dialled 999 for help and were instructed to stay by the back window. Firefighters then used a ladder to pull them to safety.

All four were taken to|hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.

Downpatrick District Commander Brian Irvine commended the bravery of his crews and made particular reference the five men who were first on the scene.

He said the fire had already spread to the roof when they had arrived and the crew had to quickly assess the dangers as well as look for occupants.

“The local firefighters who were first on the scene did exceptionally well,” he said. “They were faced with a very challenging incident. The initial crew of five were faced with a well developed blaze and they were not sure who was in or out of the building at the time. They searched every single flat to make sure people were out.”

In total seven fire appliances were used as well as the aerial appliance from Belfast.

Mr Irvine said because of the ferocity of the blaze and the danger posed to firefighters, the aerial unit was called out to extinguish the fire on the roof.

It took just under an hour to bring the fire under control. However, it took five hours to put out the blaze completely. With winter already on our doorstep Mr Irvine appealed to homeowners to be more vigilant with their safety.

“With this being Fire Safety Week I would appeal to everyone to consider their fire safety around the home. It is very important to make sure smoke alarms are working. I would also ask people to think about an escape route,” he said.

A PSNI spokeswoman said they were not treating the fire as suspicious.

Belfast Telegraph

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