Owner told me 'get out' minutes before home burst into flames
The owner of a house at the centre of the massive fire that engulfed a terrace of six homes in Newbridge had demanded his tenant leave just minutes before it burst into flames.
Darragh Ward (39), from Loughlinstown, Celbridge, Co Kildare, later presented himself at Newbridge Garda Station as fire crews battled to prevent the blaze spreading at the Millfield Manor estate.
He remained there last night as the investigation continued.
Gardai and local sources say Ward walked from the house after an initial explosion was heard and got into his car and drove away.
Polish national Wlodzimierz Blachnio said he was renting a room from Mr Ward at 66 Millfield Manor.
"I have been living in the house for around a year and always got on well with Darragh," said Mr Blachnio, speaking from the Keadeen Hotel in Newbridge where some of the families left homeless have been accommodated.
"I rented a room from him and we never had any difficulty, but then on Tuesday morning all of a sudden he told me I would have to leave that day by four o'clock.
"It was a shock for me. I did not know why and he wouldn't explain. He just said I had to go.
"I asked him what I did wrong. I always paid my rent on time, and he said, 'There is no problem with you, I can't tell you why. You just must leave the house today'.
"Then he went into Newbridge for a few hours and I was ringing friends and trying to sort out somewhere to stay.
"Then he came back and said I had to go by four o'clock. I asked him for my deposit so I could look for somewhere else but he said he did not have it and I could collect it again.
"I didn't know why he was acting like this so I took some things I could carry and left to go to Newbridge. I told him I would be back at around 6pm for the other things and he said that was okay.
"He said, 'This house is not safe, sorry about that', and that I should go at once."
Mr Blachnio said he collected some small personal effects such as his passport and phone and went into Newbridge to think about where he could stay.
"I had left all my other belongings behind. My computer, my television, all the things in the kitchen," said Mr Blachnio.
"Then a friend in the estate rang me. He asked me was I okay and said the house was on fire. I thought it was some kind of joke, but he insisted so I went back.
"I could not believe what I saw when I returned - the houses were in flames. I was shocked."
Mr Blachnio said he and Mr Ward used to watch football on the TV together sometimes and have a beer or two in the house.
"We always got on well so I can't think why something like this could happen," he said.
Another man who lived in the house next door to the one where the fire began said that as he ran from his own home with his two young children he saw Mr Ward get into his car.
"I asked him to call the fire brigade but he just said, 'I don't have a phone', and got into his car, closed the door and drove away," he told the Herald.
Mr Blachnio said he is now homeless, but he heard the people of Newbridge were putting together a fund and collecting clothing, toiletries and other items to help the victims of the fire
The remains of the terrace of homes will have to be demolished after the gable walls were left leaning outwards.
The chief fire officer of Kildare Fire Service described how high winds fanned the flames as they tried to protect neighbouring properties.
"Units from Newbridge and Naas were here within 10 minutes of the alarm being raised, but at that stage one of the houses was fully involved in fire," said Celina Barrett at the scene.
"The flames then spread to two neighbouring properties accelerated by the strong winds.
"After 30 minutes the priority changed to stopping the fire spreading to a neighbouring terrace because it was realised that it was impossible to save the six homes that were burning."
While no one was injured, the damage was catastrophic, completely destroying all the Millfield Manor homes. The families have been left with absolutely nothing.
Anyone wishing to help can do so through the Permanent TSB account which has a BIC code IPBSIE2D and an IBAN number of IE67IPBS99064524172540.
Scores of volunteers gathered at the local Ryston Sports Club yesterday to co-ordinate the efforts to help the families.