Tower block fire safety concerns to be raised with Housing Executive

The fire and smoke damage is clearly visible on the outside of Coolmoyne House, Seymour Hill. Pic by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye
The fire and smoke damage is clearly visible on the outside of Coolmoyne House, Seymour Hill. Pic by Freddie Parkinson/Press Eye

A local DUP councillor says he will be calling for “a major rethink” of fire safety systems at Coolmoyne House and other high-rise flats in the local area when he meets with Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) officials next week.

Following a terrifying incident at the Seymour Hill tower block last Wednesday evening, during which residents had to be evacuated after a fire broke out in a ninth floor flat, Cllr Jonathan Craig has voiced concerns about the safety of those living in high-rise blocks.

Cllr Jonathan Craig.

Cllr Jonathan Craig.

More than 50 firefighters were tasked to the incident at Coolmoyne House and four residents had to be treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Local political and community representatives praised the emergency services and NIHE staff for their response to the fire, claiming the swift actions of firefighters undoubtedly saved lives.

In the hours after the incident, residents of the tower block voiced fears about the alarm system, questioning why it hadn’t sounded on all floors of the building.

Echoing those concerns, Cllr Craig 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, an NIHE spokesperson 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, monitored 24 hours a day.”

With local councillors due to meet NIHE officials on Monday evening, Cllr Craig said he will be taking the opportunity to ask questions about what is being done to minimise the fear and anger of Coolmoyne residents, and suggesting that the installation of sprinkler systems in high-rise blocks must be considered.