As I trudge up the stairs to go to the loo I look out my landing window as I often do. Looking across to the high rise flats and Colin Mountain is often hypnotic to me as it conjures memories of travels and coming home from some far off land. ‘Holy Fuck!!! That’s flames coming out of Coolmoyne House. Fuck!!!! My Dad!” I don’t think my feet actually touched a step as raced to the living room to phone my Dad.
Due to his diabetes my Dad has a sleep in the afternoon and sometimes he does not week until early evening. The answer machine clicks on and I calmly tell him “there’s a fire in the flats. If you get this leave immediately. I’m on my way over now.” As I briskly walk toward the flats I count the floors. From the ninth floor up it ‘looks like’ the blaze is coming from at least four floors above. A neighbour says “have you got anybody in there Mickey?” “My Dad” I reply and keep walking.
My heart is in my mouth which has ran out of spit as I walk across the main road and see the fire engines and crowds gathered outside the flats. The fire ‘looks like’ it has really taken hold and my only consoling thought was that it is on the other side of the building and above him. He should be ok. “Oh shit, how will he get down the stairs?” As I furtively search the crowd in the darkness I spot him leaning on his stick wearing his pyjamas and slippers. At least he put a coat on. My legs turned to jelly. Still no spit in my mouth.
The car park road in and out is blocked by emergency vehicles. My immediate concern to get Dad over to my house and into the heat. I spoke with local community reps and am told that everyone is out safe and the guy whose flat accidentally caught fire has been taken to hospital as a precaution (get well soon Billy).
Spoke to a female PSNI (Police Service for Northern Ireland) inspector and briefly explained my father’s health condition. He’s recovering from a fourth cancer op and has COPD. Without hesitation two PSNI officers escort him to their car and give us a lift back to the warmth and safety of my house. Thank you so much to the PSNI officers. Once dad is settled I head over to find out the facts of what has happened and what will be happening and when or if residents will be allowed back home.
To cut a long story short the fire had been contained and extinguished in a very short period of time.
Now, after any major incident there will be questions. As an academic I deal in facts. As a human being I naturally think of the what ifs but for the purpose and reason for this blog I will deal with the facts. There were no media present when I left in the police car and the fire had been extinguished. The video footage we all saw was from social media. Someone took a short video on their phone. The fire had been extinguished within thirty minutes and contained to one flat. Smoke detectors in the flat alerted Billy and he was able to get out and raise the alarm. There were no alarms sounding on any other floor. The Fire Service stated that their procedure for dealing with a fire at Coolmoyne House was ‘text book’ and due to their swift action and professionalism there was no serious injury or loss of life. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Northern Ireland Fire Service for their bravery and professionalism. Residents, relatives (like myself) and local community are angry that they could not hear alarms. These are the facts.
The definition of ‘Freedom of Speech’ is “the right of people to express their opinions publicly without governmental interference, subject to the laws against libel, incitement to violence or rebellion, etc.” see Dictionary.com (online) http://www.dictionary.com/browse/freedom-of-speech
The ethical principles of ‘Journalism’ are quoted as “…share common elements including the principles of—truthfulness, accuracy, objectivity, impartiality, fairness and public accountability—as these apply to the acquisition of newsworthy information and its subsequent dissemination to the public…” see Wikepdia (online) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journalism_ethics_and_standards
In the aftermath of the ‘major incident’ at Coolmoyne House BBC News reported “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.” See BBC News (online) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-42004752
Now, anyone who lives in Coolmoyne House (like I did) will know that there is always a wind blowing there. Even on the balmiest of sunny days there is always a breeze of some sorts. These guys must have noses like blood hounds or should I say sensationalist newshounds. I was there the next morning at the same time as the news crews and I smelt nothing. Maybe I’ve got a cold. The only smoke I smelt was from in my Dad’s flat caused by his pipe. Even the Housing Executive guy said something similar. Now don’t get me wrong. As a Published Author and lover of words I love the freedom of discourse. However, it can be misinterpreted and cause resentment and anger when taken out of context.
Comments made on Facebook by a Journalist Hugh Jordan from the Sunday World may well be, on my part, taken out of context but I am not alone in feeling they are spurious and inflammatory. This is my opinion and I have a right to them. I’ll leave it up to the readers of this blog to make their own mind up.
” As today is Blue Light Day, right across the UK people are rightly heaping praise on our brave emergency services. With that in mind, it’s an ideal time to say a huge thank you to the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service for the marvellous job it did in Dunmurry the other night. Now is the time to establish the full facts surrounding the fire. The Seymour Hill & Conway Residents Association claims a faulty toaster was the primary cause of the fire, but the experts say there were other factors involved. Perhaps the loyalist propaganda group, the UPRG could use its good offices to establish exactly where each resident was prior to the fire starting. Perhaps Jackie McDonald could assist in this regard.
It’s clear some Dunmurry residents are attempting to exploit last night’s fire for their own ends. I’m with the Fire Service.☠☠
There’s a row in Dunmurry the size of the Ritz, but who is right? Residents who claim they were in danger last night, or the Fire and Rescue Service who say everything was under control?
It might be a good idea as part of a review of safety procedures in wake of the fire in Dunmurry, if they increased the price of alcohol in local pubs.” see https://www.facebook.com/hugh.jordan.37?hc_ref=ARTHlPPlhC_Pto3pOeB7NENBb0LKzP3AJavpJWvD6zqldD6RuATWKJgrduguMx9kQR0
As I stated at the start of this blog it ‘looked like’ the fire was more serious than it turned out to be. The facts remain that the fire was dealt with professionally and I find no fault with the Fire Service. Whether a toaster was the cause or not will be revealed in the follow up investigation and to suggest that the price of drink in local pubs may have been a contributory factor is in my opinion ‘disgusting’. My heart goes out to the elderly people (like my father) who live in high rise flats across the whole of Northern Ireland. My heart also goes out to people who have to pay more for a pint in other areas of Belfast.
I can see the headlines now…