Residents of a row of flats in Banbridge were lucky to escape injury after a fire was started at the property in the early hours of Sunday morning (September 11).
The flat where the blaze was started deliberately was extensively damaged, but residents of neighbouring properties at Chestnut Place were able to make their way to safety after the alarm was raised shortly after 2.30am.
“One fire appliance each from Banbridge, Lurgan and Dromore fire stations were deployed to the scene of a flat well alight in the area,” a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service explained.
“Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus and using a hosereel jet and a covering jet dealt with the incident. The property was extensively damaged as a result of the fire.
“All persons were accounted for at the scene, with a working smoke alarm actuating during the incident.
“Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service finished at the scene at 3:07am and the fire is being treated as deliberate.”
Councillor Glenn Barr condemned those responsible for starting the fire, warning that if the alarm hadn’t been raised, lives could have been lost.
“I would condemn the actions of those who started this fire as they clearly put people’s lives at risk,” he said.
“I’d like to commend the efforts of the fire crews involved because obviously without their swift actions the situation could have been much worse.
“If anyone noticed any suspicious activity in the area they should report that information to the police or pass it on to a local representative,” the UUP man continued.
Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson added: “I utterly condemn those involved in this reckless incident which needlessly put local lives at risk.
“I understand from speaking with Senior PSNI officers that a detailed forensic examination is ongoing and a number of items are being closely examined.
“I commend the swift action of the Fire Service in responding to a situation which created the very real prospect of loss of life and appeal to anyone who has any information to contact the PSNI.”
Police officers investigating the incident say the fire was “deliberately ignited” and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them at Lurgan Police Station on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference 193 on 11/09/16. Information can also be passed on anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.