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Firefighters praised for preventing deaths after high-rise fire in Belfast

Residents were evacuated as emergency services arrived at the scene.

Firefighters have been praised for averting loss of life after a fire broke out in a high-rise tower block near Belfast.

The blaze burst through windows of a ninth floor apartment in Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, causing scorch damage on two sides of the 14-storey property.

The man whose flat caught alight was rescued by fire service personnel who also helped lead other residents to safety.

Paramedics tended to four patients, a Northern Ireland Ambulance Service spokesman said.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service Group Commander Geoff Somerville said the accidental fire, which he said was suspected to have been caused by a toaster, was well developed when crews arrived within five minutes of the emergency call.

“I am very relieved there is no loss of life and that is only because of the courageous actions of our firefighters here today,” he said.

“We had 55 firefighters in attendance and thanks to their professionalism no one has lost their life in this premises.”

The fire comes a day after the five-month anniversary of the Grenfell high-rise inferno which killed at least 80 people.

Evacuated residents gathered outside the building as the emergency response unfolded. Some later went to a nearby community centre.

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Residents gather outside the building (Liam McBurney/PA)

Some expressed concerns that fire alarms did not sound through the building when the blaze took hold.

The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
The flats at Seymour Hill . Pic: Crowded Space Drones
A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
The blaze in Dunmurry
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson Presseye
Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry. Pic: Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye ©
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye © Wednesday 16 November 2017 Repairs and cleaning up starts after the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 A fire has broken out at a high-rise block of flats in Dunmurry, on the outskirts of west Belfast. Firefighters and ambulance crews were sent to Coolmoyne House flats on Seymour Hill, as flames and smoke hit multiple floors of the tower block Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
Mandatory Credit - Picture by Freddie Parkinson © Wednesday 15 November 2017 All services attend the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry

Mr Somerville said the alarm system operated as designed, with the alarms inside the man’s flat sounding and a soundless alarm system in the communal area to open air vents also activating.

He said alarms in other flats should only have sounded if they detected smoke.

“The fire alarm system worked as expected,” he said.

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Firefighters attend the blaze (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Somerville said crews had averted the spread of the fire to other flats.

“It flashed out through the windows of the flat on two different sides of the building,” he said.

“When we arrived it was a very well developed fire and I’m glad to say it was very quickly brought under control.”

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Emergency services at the scene (Liam McBurney/PA)

Robert Zwaagman, who lives on the 12th floor, said the first he knew of the fire was when fire crews arrived.

He insisted an alarm should have sounded throughout the building.

“Especially after the Grenfell Tower accident the main question and the main concern of mine is the fact why didn’t the alarms go off, with such a big fire, on every floor?” he said.

Mr Zwaagman said it had been a “frightening” experience.

“I am okay now but just a couple of minutes ago I was shaking,” he said.

Fellow resident Janice Sloan said: “It’s such a shock to have such an event like this.

“The first we knew anything was wrong was the two fire brigades outside.”

Assembly member Edwin Poots said his overriding emotion was one of relief.

“It’s one of huge relief that this isn’t another Grenfell disaster,” he said.

“This is a high tower and it could have been much, much worse but we had a brilliant response from the fire service who quickly brought the fire under control and got everyone out of the building, supported by the other emergency services.”

The Democratic Unionist representative said residents had endured a “hugely traumatic” experience.

“The big concern for a lot of the residents is that smoke alarms did not go off throughout the building, so many residents were in a burning building and didn’t realise it,” he said.

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