'I'm just grateful they're alive' - family flees horror blaze at home
A firefighter broke both wrists when he was forced to jump from a first-floor window at a house where he was tackling a blaze.
Several colleagues entered the burning home in Athy, Co Kildare, and managed to bring the fire on the ground floor under control.
However, a second fire suddenly flared in an upstairs room, which resulted in one of the firefighters being forced to escape the flames by jumping from a window.
He was treated at Naas General Hospital for fractures.
The fire broke out in the home of a family of six on the Canal Walk estate at about 10.30am yesterday.
The father and four children were not in the house when the alarm was raised. The mother escaped through the front door.
"My daughter and her husband and their four children are all OK. I'm devastated. My daughter is in a terrible state and deeply shocked," said grandmother Jennifer McVeigh.
"I'm just grateful that they are all alive. That's all that matters."
Gardai sealed off the scene and forensic experts began an examination to find the cause of the fire.
It was initially believed that a gas explosion had taken place, but this was dismissed by the fire services.
"The woman in the house came out of the house and she was hysterical," said neighbour Carl Delaney (45). "There was smoke coming out of all the windows and the vents in the roof. I went up to the front door and opened it and thick black smoke came out.
"It was completely black and very thick and there was no way of getting inside, so I shut the door again.
"There was no one in the house at this stage."
Next door neighbour Patrick Moriarty (47) said he saw flames licking the back wall of the house.
"The first thing we heard was a hissing sound and then we saw the black smoke," he said. "Myself and my wife got our children and grandchildren out of the house straight away.
"I went around the back of our house and I could see flames coming out of the kitchen window in the house next door.
"The flames reached all the way up to the gutters."
Mr Moriarty said Athy Fire Station is at the entrance to the estate, meaning fire crews were quickly on the scene.
"The first thing I heard was a whooshing sound next door and then I saw the smoke," said his wife, Jacqueline (51).
"The first thing we did was get the two sons and two daughters and two grand- children out of the house.
"There was smoke everywhere. It was very frightening."
A 44-year-old mother-of-three added: "The firemen were very brave in putting their lives on the line."