Ballymena fire a 'devastating blow'
A FIRE that destroyed several businesses in Ballymena has been described as a "devastating blow", which could have an impact on jobs.
The blaze on Broughshane Street began on the second floor of the Woodgreen furniture store at around 5pm on Tuesday, with the flames quickly spreading to neighbouring premises.
A total of five businesses were damaged, three extensively, with the Woodgreen store completely gutted.
It took almost 60 firefighters, with eight fire engines, two aerial appliances and a specialist command support unit, more than six hours to extinguish the blaze.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries.
The fire service said yesterday it was still investigating the cause of the blaze.
It is understood that structural engineers carried out an assessment of the damaged buildings yesterday afternoon.
Broughshane Street, which is Ballymena’s main thoroughfare, was closed overnight on Tuesday and diversions were in place for much of yesterday.
One of the businesses affected, Rainey and Gregg’s real estate agents, took to social media to thank those who offered their help and support.
"I'm sure everyone has heard the unfortunate news about our premises by now and we would all like to thank everyone for their kind words and offers of help," it said.
"We would ask everyone to please bear with us, we hope to have our phone lines up in the next few days and new premises sorted very soon."
Ronan McCann, president of Ballymena Borough Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the business community would help those affected in any way they can.
"People's livelihoods are without doubt going to be affected," he said.
"It's devastating. The only positive is there were no fatalities."
The mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Audrey Wales, also said her thoughts were with the traders whose premises were destroyed.
"These businesses are well established in Ballymena and I know the traders involved personally, as do many throughout the town," she said.
"To see their livelihoods reduced to ruins is a devastating blow which will be felt throughout Ballymena and as a former retailer myself, I understand how devastating this will be."