Northern Ireland news

In pictures: Residents left terrified as fire rips through Dunmurry flats months after Grenfell

Brendan Hughes

TERRIFIED residents feared they could have been the victims of a Grenfell-style tragedy after a fire broke out in a tower block near Belfast.

Four people were treated by paramedics and many more forced from their flats following the blaze in the 14-storey Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry.

The fire, believed to have been started by a toaster, burst through windows of a ninth-floor apartment and caused scorch damage on two sides of the building.

Firefighters were praised for averting loss of life, a day after the five-month anniversary of the Grenfell inferno which killed at least 80 people.

Coolmoyne residents told reporters at the scene that they felt "lucky to be alive", saying all they could think about was the tragedy in London.

A community worker said residents were "shook up from Grenfell, and after tonight they are really shook up".

The man whose flat caught alight, thought to be in his fifties, was rescued by firefighters who also helped lead other residents to safety.

Crews were called at about 5.30pm as flames and smoke hit several floors. The fire was extinguished shortly after 6pm.

Group commander Geoff Somerville said it was well developed when crews arrived within five minutes of the emergency call.

Residents gather outside Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry
 

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

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

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

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

But Mr Somerville said the alarm system operated as designed, with the alarms inside the man's flat sounding and a soundless system in the communal area opening air vents.

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

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."

People at the scene of the fire

The scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date:  Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

The scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Liam McBurney/PA Wire...

Fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building. Robert Cullen/PA Wire

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