Residents facing months with no home as bbq fire guts apartments
The damage caused by a massive apartment blaze in west Dublin could cost hundreds of thousands of euro to repair and see nearly 100 people forced out of their homes for many months.
Dozens were left homeless when 24 properties were badly damaged by the fire, which was believed to have been started when a barbecue on a balcony ignited the roof of a block in the Verdemont apartments complex on Snugborough Road on Wednesday night.
The fire tore through the roof space of the apartment to neighbouring properties, and then spread into those flats when the ceilings collapsed.
Ten Dublin Fire Brigade units fought the blaze using a turntable ladder and, as a result, the apartments underneath the blazing units suffered extensive water damage.
Investigators combed the scene yesterday as they gathered evidence to confirm the cause of the fire. The remains of a barbecue were taken away for analysis.
Meanwhile, residents were critical of what they said was poor access for the fire brigade to the main area of the fire.
"Dublin Fire Brigade were brilliant, but they had to fight the fire from the car park because they can't get their engines around the other side of the building, where the fire started on a top balcony," said one woman.
Some of the property owners and tenants wept and were comforted by friends and family as the true extent of the damage became clear yesterday.
Jim O'Connor, of the O'Connor Property Management Company, explained to residents that they were waiting for structural engineers and insurance assessors to examine the scene before allowing anyone in to retrieve their belongings.
He said a lot of people had been put up by family members on the night of the fire, while Fingal County Council and the Civil Defence had provided temporary accommodation for a handful of families.
"The real challenge here will be accommodating people in the long term," said Mr O'Connor.
"The building won't be reinstated for months and there are 24 properties affected in the main block and two adjacent properties as well."
Local TD Ruth Coppinger said the situation for tenants was particularly concerning. "Renters have less control, they are trying to contact landlords to find out about insurance and need somewhere to live," she said.
"There are many questions. Does the management company cover the provision of alternative accommodation or is it down to Fingal County Council?
"And does the landlord's insurance cover the contents of those renting or is that up to the tenants?
"These questions need to be answered."
Meanwhile, it has emerged that a previous fire in 2002 claimed the lives of two young people at Verdemont, close to where Wednesday's fire happened.
Louise Wall (20) and her friend Mick Farrell (24) were found dead in her apartment. There had been a fire in the kitchen in the hours before the bodies were found.
Firemen responding to the fire noticed a pungent, toxic-like smell and observed that plastic light fittings had melted in the heat.
The fire went out by itself, indicating a lack of oxygen in the apartment.
Ms Wall's body was found in the bath - she appeared to have fallen in after becoming unconscious. Mr Farrell's body was found in the bedroom.