NEWS
15/11/2017 21:05 GMT | Updated 16/11/2017 04:46 GMT

Dunmurry Fire: Firefighters Praised For Preventing Deaths As Blaze Rips Through High-Rise Near Belfast

't could have been much, much worse'.

Firefighters were praised after just four people were treated by medics following a blaze that ripped through a high-rise block of flats in Northern Ireland.

Emergency services are at the scene of the fire at Coolmoyne House in Dunmurry, near Belfast, where residents have been evacuated from the building.

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said the fire was reported from the ninth floor about 6pm on Wednesday.

The blaze comes months after a local councillor sought assurances that the high-rise was safe in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

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

PA Wire/PA Images
PA Wire/PA Images

Four people were being treated by the ambulance service.

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.

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

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.

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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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.

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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.