The Minister of St Colman’s Parish Church in Dunmurry was treated for smoke inhalation this week after a fire broke out at the church.
Firefighters were called to the historic local church shortly after 1am on Monday January 11 following reports that the church building was on fire.
Investigations are ongoing, however, it is believed it was an electrical fire which ravaged the 108 year old church, and it is expected to take a year before repairs will be completed.
The church has been offered two new premises in Dunmurry while the listed building, which dates back to 1908, is repaired.
The minister of St Colman’s Parish, Adrian McLaughlin, who was installed at the church in June 2014, spotted the fire as he went to look for his cat.
Rev McLaughlin attempted to combat the fire himself but was unable to fight back the flames.
He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast and kept on oxygen for about four to five hours before being discharged.
According to his wife Christine, Rev McLaughlin is coughing a lot and is under instructions to drink plenty of fluids.
However, it is understood he is recovering well, and it is hoped he will be able to take the upcoming Sunday service.
Instead John Williams, a 63-year-old Lisburn man who holds the post of diocesian reader, said they were not yet certain of the precise cause, but that the fire service are treating it as an accidental electrical fire.
“I’ll tell you how it was noticed,” he said. “The rector and his wife have a young cat, and the cat hadn’t come in last night.”
While he was up checking on the animal’s whereabouts, the minister saw “what he thought was the light on in the pulpit” and went to investigate.
“It was a glow coming from behind the pipes of the organ,” said Mr Williams.
“He ran out to the rectory and pulled the garden hose in. And it must’ve been electrical – as soon as he put the water on it, the whole thing went up.”
The fire brigade then attended, with more than 30 firefighters on the scene.
The church had just had a new sound system installed a few weeks ago which is now wrecked, and Rev McLaughlin had recently purchased (at his own expense) a brass chandelier to decorate the church.
“It’s now lying in tatters on the floor,” said Mr Williams.
In addition, the main Bible was damaged, as were hymn books.
Mr Williams said nothing like it had befallen the church during his lifetime, but said: “We will rise from the ashes.”
A firefighter was also reported to have suffered injury while tackling the blaze.
A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: “Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service received a call at 1:08am to a report of a fire at premises at the Church Avenue area of Dunmurry in the early hours of this morning (Monday January 11).
“Two fire Appliances from Lisburn Fire Station, two fire appliances from Cadogan Fire Station, two fire appliances from Springfield Fire Station and one fire appliance from Central Fire Station were deployed to the scene. Assistance was also provided by the Fire Emergency Support Service appliance.
“Firefighters using four jets, two hosereel jets, thermal imaging cameras, 1 9 metre ladder and a triple extension ladder were used to deal with a fire in the roof of a church in the area.
“One firefighter was taken to hospital with non-serious injuries, following masonry falling on him during the incident.
“Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service finished at the scene at 5:20am and the fire is being treated as accidental.”