Fire station to rise from the ashes

WORK to refurbish and extend Rathfriland Fire Station following a devastating blaze that gutted the premises more than a year ago is set to begin in the next few months - but the Fire Service said it is unclear whether smoke alarms will be fitted in the building.

The Castle Street station was burnt out in August 2009 and an investigation later concluded the fire’s cause to have been accidental.

Shock was expressed when it was revealed that there were no fire alarms fitted in the 53-year-old building.

The area’s local firefighters, who had to stand and watch as their building went up in smoke during the incident, have been working out of a temporary facility for the past 18 months.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said at the time the policy was not to fit smoke alarms in unmanned buildings.

When asked by the Leader to confirm whether alarms will be fitted in the newly refurbished station a spokeswoman said, “The design specification for Rathfriland Fire Station has not been finalised”.

While the cost of repair was estimated at less than £700,000 in the weeks after the blaze, that has since risen to £935,000.

The station is due to reopen in April next year and will feature two fire engines and a range of specialist equipment.

NIFRS Chief Fire Officer Peter Craig thanked the station’s fire officers and the local community for their patience while awaiting news of the refurbishment.

“I would like to acknowledge their patience and professionalism during this period of disruption and to thank them for continuing to provide a first class fire and rescue service to the local community,” said Mr Craig.

“I would also like to thank the local community in Rathfriland for their support and particularly the residents living close to the Station while refurbishment work in the part of the Station least damaged in the fire took place.

Local councillor Elizabeth Ingram said it was heartening to know the station’s rebuild plans would go ahead despite economic constraints.

“In a time of reduced budgets it is good to know that Rathriland Fire Station has been kept to a top priority and that money has been made available to maintain such a vital service which will now encompass modern facilities and will be of great benefit to the local area,” she said.