Wednesday, 12 April 2017
LIVES could have been lost after a derelict building was deliberately set alight in Kilkeel.
Dramatic scenes unfolded around 11pm on Sunday night (9 April) as the former Riverside Tavern on Bridge Street was set alight.
When crews arrived the fire was well established and involved the first, second and third floors of the four-storey derelict property.
The fire spread to the roof and a neighbouring building, a bicycle shop owned by a local man. Crews tackled the blaze for over three hours and two appliances were used from Kilkeel Fire Station and a specialist appliance from Portadown.
Kilkeel man David McConnell witnessed the inferno take hold. He says there was a strong presence from the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service at the scene.
The Riverside Tavern was once a well known public house in the area and was later rebranded as The SpiceTree which serviced the local young community with offices, a drop-in centre and live band nights.
Mr McConnell added: "The fire was coming from the top front roof and there was also a lot of smoke coming from the side of the roof which covers both of the buildings." Yesterday morning (Monday) there was still a strong smell of smoke in Kilkeel following the aftermath of the blaze.
The roof appeared to be collapsed from the four-storey derelict building and there were also broken windows and debris on the ground outside.
Independent Councillor Henry Reilly, who was at the scene on Sunday night said it was "scary ".
He added: "It was frightening the way the winds were fanning the fire and the crews did very well to stop this blaze spreading even further and the adjoining business has been badly damaged as a result of this fire too." The Mournes councillor has slammed the arson attack as the worst kind of anti-social behaviour.
"It could have led to loss of life. I commend and thank our brave fire and rescue personnel who put in a massive effort to contain and put out the fire which could easily have spread.
"I am now calling on the council's planning department and the property owners to work together as a matter of urgency to get the site cleared and an appropriate new build erected there as soon as possible.
"We cannot tolerate a massive eye sore in the very centre of Kilkeel so there is an onus on all the statutory bodies and property owners to get the issues sorted as soon as possible. " Meanwhile, Sinn Fein Councillor Sean Doran has also condemned the arson attack.
He added: "It is a disgrace that someone would do this, especially with a business beside the derelict property and the risk of putting lives in grave danger.
"We have been talking about anti-social behaviour that is happening at the River Walk area in Kilkeel for a while now, sowhoever carried out this arson attack could possibly be linked to activities in that vicinity."
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