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Northern Ireland news

Arson attack close to pensioner's home has left residents 'frightened'

The blaze in Downpatrick's Ballymote Park spread quickly to a pensioner's bungalow
Paul Ainsworth

AN arson attack close to the home of a vulnerable pensioner in Downpatrick could have led to a fatality, it has been warned.

A fence was set ablaze at the rear of a house in the Ballymote Park area at around 7.30pm on Friday.

The fire spread first to a shed and then to the bungalow itself, which belonged to a pensioner who was not at home at the time.

It is understood a mobility scooter belonging to the elderly householder was destroyed in the blaze, which was eventually brought under control by firefighters.

Police have appealed for information and said they are particularly interested in speaking with two youths seen in the area immediately before the fire.

Gerry Lennon, group commander with the NI Fire and Rescue Service, said the blaze had been "ferocious".

"Due to the winds, it blew the fire onto the roof of the bungalow which was very close to the shed and unfortunately caught fire very, very quickly."

SDLP MLA Colin McGrath said residents have been left "frightened".

"This incident took place when people were sitting down to their dinners," he said.

"The house is the first in a terrace and if it wasn't for the swift response of the fire service the damage could have been much worse.

"Thankfully the pensioner wasn't in the property at the time or else the story could have ended very differently. Having spent time with residents at the scene, many were left frightened and feeling very vulnerable."

Mr McGrath added that the area has been "besieged by anti-social behaviour in the past number of years" and he has requested alley gates be installed.

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