herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Residents just stand and weep as six houses are gutted by raging inferno

HOUSEHOLDERS were left in tears as they watched their homes burn as high winds swept a massive blaze across six houses, destroying them all.

Senior fire-fighter Celina Barrett today said it was "impossible" to save the homes on the terrace and that her officers had to focus on preventing the fire spreading to the next block.

Emergency crews were still on scene this morning, quenching pockets of fire in the debris of the destroyed terrace which one local representative said resembled a "warzone".

The alarm was raised shortly after 4pm yesterday when neighbours spotted the fire and fled their homes at Millfield Manor, Newbridge.

Gardai last night said that they had arrested a 39-year-old man in connection with the investigation. The man was detained at Newbridge Garda Station under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.

Neighbours today told how they could only stand helpless as the fire took hold.

"It started in the downstairs of one of the middle houses and then went up to the roof," said Monica Kalova. "But within 10 minutes it was spreading to the houses next door.

CRYING

"The people who lived in them were out on the grass, they were crying as they watched their homes burn. There was nothing they could do. There was nothing anyone could do," Monica explained.

Today all that remains is the half-collapsed shell of the six houses, with their chimney stacks standing starkly against the sky.

One of the middle houses was totally collapsed and inspectors from Kildare County Council, as well as garda forensic teams, waited until it was safe to carry out an initial assessment of the scene.

Kildare fire officer, Ms Barrett outlined how the emergency response played out.

"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.

"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," she explained.

"It was defensive fire-fighting from the outside, and today the crews are putting out the flames that are coming up from the fallen debris," she added.

The fire service also contacted the dangerous buildings inspectors in the council to examine the scene.

"The gable ends are leaning out, with one of them leaning towards a neighbouring terrace, so that will have to be made safe," said Ms Barrett.

Local councillor Willie Crowley said he wanted to see an investigation into how the flames spread so quickly.

"I think this is a warning to others in the estate and all the houses need to be looked at to ensure there is never a repeat of this," he told the Herald.

The residents of the destroyed houses were said to have been put up in a hotel overnight, and locals in the community were gathering at a local sports club today to formulate a plan to raise funds and clothing for those affected.

Cllr Crowley said the psychological and physical damage from the fire is "colossal".

"People were left with the clothes they were standing up in and nothing else. It will take them a long time to recover," he said. "It's a tragedy. The area resembles a warzone."

cfeehan@herald.ie

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