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Dunmurry tower-block fire alarms worked ‘as expected’

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Media captionFlames and smoke hit multiple floors at Coolmoyne House

The fire alarm systems at a high-rise block of flats in Belfast that caught fire on Wednesday night worked “as expected”, the NI Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) has said.

Many residents said they were angry after alarms did not sound on some floors after the fire broke out.

Two people are in stable condition in hospital following the blaze at Coolmooyne House in Dunmurry.

It is understood the fire was an accident caused by a toaster.

  • Fire at high-rise flats near Belfast

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Daylight on Thursday showed the damage to Coolmoyne House after the fire

The fire service rescued a man from the ninth-floor flat in which the fire broke out.

SDLP MLA Pat Catney said a lot of residents were “very angry” that alarms did not sound throughout the building.

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Media captionFire service’s procedures ‘worked perfectly’

“There are strong rumours that there are no fire alarms or nothing went off and people had to be knocked at their flat doors in order to try to get them evacuated.”

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Robert Cullen

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Two people are in stable condition in hospital following the blaze at Coolmooyne House in Dunmurry

He added that he would have hoped there had been checks carried out on the building since the Grenfell Tower fire in London in July.

At the scene on Thursday morning: Kevin Sharkey, BBC News NI

Light is beginning to break for the first time since the fire began. Two things that stand out are, first the emerging scar at the top of the building creeping up towards the other flats.

Also – the smell around here. It’s quite pronounced despite the fact that there’s a strong wind blowing.

It’s still hanging in the air, that residual, putrid smell is quite pronounced.

I’ve been speaking to residents and emotions overnight have been some relief that there has been no loss of life or serious injuries; a sense of loss for those who have suffered material loss in the blaze.

I also heard emerging anger over alarm systems and some debate over did they work and were residents satisfied?

One resident told the BBC: “The alarms went off on the floor where the fire was, but why didn’t it go off on all the floors with such a big fire?”

However, NIFRS Group Commander Geoff Somerville said residents “should not have concerns” over the fire alarms.

“The alarm in the gentleman’s flat operated and sounded and that is the correct configuration,” he said.

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Some of the flats on the upper floors have been damaged

“There is a communal fire alarm system in the hallway that is to operate and automatically open vents to the common hallway and that also successfully operated and that allowed smoke to exit from the building.

“There would be no sounders in the common hallway nor should their be.

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The fire started in a flat on the ninth floor of the tower block

“It is important of course to emphasise to everybody that each flat would have a self-contained fire alarm system, this individual flat itself had three smoke detectors and they operated and worked.

“Their (other residents) alarms should not go off unless they detected smoke.”

A total of eleven fire appliances and four ambulances were sent to Coolmoyne House.

The tower block on the Seymour Hill housing estate is owned and operated by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Susanne Berrill, another tower block resident, said: “I’ve literally only started life again after a big trauma and this has happened.”

“My windows and everything from my flat are lying outside on the ground as well as the flats below.”

“Whatever way the fire went, it just seemed to vacuum straight up. So, not good – but we’re alive.”

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