Wednesday 29th August 2018
Most of us now will have seen the clips and photos of the Primark fire and aftermath in Belfast yesterday. Seeing those images makes me think of all my former colleagues and how fortunate we are to have such diligent people working in the emergency services bringing the blaze under control and keeping the people of Belfast safe.
I served 16 years in the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service and from my past experience, the work that all the Emergency Services carried out, especially the NIFRS, is worthy of praise. It is clear that there was a very high level of inter-agency co-operation. When faced with the unprecedented scale of a fire such as this, it is no mean feat to walk towards the danger zone to bring it under control. It certainly isn`t for the faint hearted.
Our immediate concern must now be for the staff of Primark and other businesses who have been effected by this huge fire in the centre of Belfast. It is sometimes easy to forget just how far reaching the impact of an event such as this can be.
This was a fire of huge scale and given the extent of it, I am thankful that no-one was seriously injured. This was also due to Primark staff who helped evacuate the building and lead customers and colleagues to a place of safety.
I would also like to make special mention of Assistant Chief Fire Officer Michael Graham and his team for their heroic and professional work
This event brought back vivid memories of the biggest fire I was ever called to back in 2004, close to Primark, in what was Waterstones and Goldsmith`s Jewellers. I was a Sector Commander at the incident and can bear testimony to the bravery of our frontline Emergency Services, especially our firefighters, in operating under the type of stressful conditions that existed in Belfast City Centre on Tuesday.
Very often the unseen and unsung heroes at events like this are volunteers and it would be remiss not to acknowledge the role of voluntary organisations such as the Rapid Response Team from East Belfast Mission who throughout the protracted incident provided much needed and appreciated sustenance to the emergency responders. The actions of all these people cumulatively working together demonstrate all that is best about Northern Ireland whenever we are faced with adversity.