Fire at high-rise flats: Housing Executive offers safety assurances

PACEMAKER BELFAST  15/11/2017
 Emergency services personnel and local residents look on as firefighters extinguish the blaze at Coolmoyne House, Seymour Hill. Photo by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press
PACEMAKER BELFAST 15/11/2017 Emergency services personnel and local residents look on as firefighters extinguish the blaze at Coolmoyne House, Seymour Hill. Photo by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive has insisted that it is “fully compliant with all fire safety regulations” and takes the safety of residents “extremely seriously”.

The organisation gave the assurance in response to concerns about the fire alarm system in Coolmoyne House, Seymour Hill following a blaze at the multi-storey flats on Wednesday evening.

Cllr Jonathan Craig.

Cllr Jonathan Craig.

More than 50 firefighters were tasked to the incident and four residents had to be treated for the effects of smoke inhalation after a fire broke out in a ninth floor flat.

According to the Housing Executive, three residents whose flats were affected had to spend the night in a nearby hotel.

Following the incident, local DUP Councillor Jonathan Craig said residents had serious concerns about the alarm system in the high-rise block.

Calling for “a major rethink” of the fire alarm system in Coolmoyne House, he said: “The problem is that when there is a fire in a particular flat the alarm goes off in that flat. It won’t trigger the alarm in the flat next door, or in the communal area or anywhere else. If the alarm does get triggered in the communal area on that floor, it’s only on that floor and doesn’t trigger the alarms on floors above or below. There has to be a main fire alarm that triggers at a certain point and lets everyone know to evacuate the building.”

Responding to concerns about the alarm system, a spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “The Housing Executive wants to reassure residents that their safety is taken extremely seriously. We work closely with the Fire Service to ensure we remain fully compliant with all fire safety regulations, have robust fire safety regimes and carry our regular inspections in all of our high rise buildings.

“In Coolmoyne, each of the 56 flats have two smoke alarms and one heat detector alarm installed. The communal hallways are fitted with a silent smoke detection system, which is monitored 24 hours a day.

“Yesterday’s fire was contained to one flat, which was severely damaged. 17 other flats were impacted, primarily by water damage and a small number with smoke damage.

“Our response maintenance staff worked overnight on a clean-up operation and our contractors are on site today again, going door to door ensuring the electrics are safe in each home.

“We expect to have the majority of residents who were unable to return to their homes last night at Coolmoyne House, back in their homes today.”

The spokesperson continued: “The cause of the fire is under investigation by the NIFRS. We will be fully co-operating with them.

“We will be examining all aspects of last night’s incident and will take the best advice available on whether any further action needs to be taken.

“We want to commend the NIFRS for its immediate response and also the efforts of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and PSNI.

“Residents seeking high rise fire safety advice can find it on our website - www.nihe.gov.uk/highrise_buildings or contact your local office.

“NIFRS can also be contacted on 028 9266 4221 or find their high-rise fire safety advice at www.nifrs.org”

The NIHE manages 33 high-rise buildings across Northern Ireland, with approximately 1,900 properties.

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