Northern Ireland

County Down: House destroyed in Dundrum fire

damage to dundrum house Image copyright Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Image caption The blaze had spread to several homes, oil tanks and sheds and eight properties had to be evacuated

A house has been destroyed in a fire in Dundrum in County Down.

Fifty-two fire-fighters were called out to the incident in Church Avenue at around 00:30 GMT on Sunday.

The blaze had spread to several homes, oil tanks and sheds. Eight properties had to be evacuated. The cause of the fire is not yet known and an investigation is under way.

It is understood that the house that was destroyed was vacant.

Three additional homes were badly damaged, one of which is Housing Executive property. The others are privately owned.

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Media captionDundrum resident says neighbour saved his life

The fire melted a number of oil tanks when it broke out after midnight when most people were sleeping.

The interior of one house was destroyed by the blaze, while others sustained varying degrees of damage including broken windows and melted cladding.

Two pigeon lofts were caught up in the blaze. Sixty pigeons were killed.

Image caption Fifty-two firefighters were called out to the incident in Church Avenue at around 00:30 GMT on Sunday
Image copyright Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Image caption The cause of the fire is not yet known and an investigation is underway

One neighbour tried to tackle the blaze with a hose-pipe but gave up once it spread to the oil tanks.

Michael Gibbs was asleep when a neighbour rapped at his door to wake him up.

He said today: "I'm glad to be alive. It if wasn't for my next door neighbour's son, I probably wouldn't be alive."

Max Joyce from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said the scale of destruction is significant.

"Thankfully no-one was injured during this, due to the firefighters that arrived and evacuated people," he said.

"Certainly one property is destroyed so that family will have to leave, and two others I believe have left.

"I feel very, very sorry for several families who are out of their homes this Christmas".

Image copyright Cllr Mark Murnin
Image caption The aftermath of the fire shows severe damage

SDLP Councillor Mark Murnin told the BBC News NI that neighbours had helped.

"It was detected very early by a resident when it was just a small flicker and the fire brigade were called quickly.

Image caption One resident, Emma McSpadden, pictured in her back garden, told the BBC she had helped neighbours get out

"I think the fast action of the neighbours has prevented any loss of life, because the scene is devastating".