WE WERE LUCKY TO GET OUT OF FLAT FIRE ALIVE, SAYS DAD OF TODDLER BOY

Richard Meenan outside the block of flats where a fire broke out

Richard Meenan outside the block of flats where a fire broke out

THE rescue of 13 people, including a one-year-old boy, following a suspected arson attack on a block of flats on Friday was a “complex operation,” says a fire chief.

And one of those rescued said he, his wife and one-year-old son were “lucky to get out alive”.

The blaze broke out in the communal stairwell in the block of six flats just before 6.30am. Four fire appliances from Northland Road and Crescent Link attended the scene.

Richard Meenan, his partner Michelle and their one-year-old son James and another resident, Laurence Cook, were rescued by firefighters through the windows of their first floor flats.

Five residents were assisted down through the stairs by firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, while another four “rescued themselves,” said Trevor Ferguson, area commander, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

All had become trapped after thick black smoke from a burning large rug made the communal stairwell impassable.

Speaking after being discharged, he said he feared for their lives as they waited the arrival of firefighters with wet towels over their mouths after smoke began seeping under the door into their first floor flat.

Said Richard Meenan: “Michelle was a getting up with James when she smelled burning plastic.

“She went into the living room and saw smoke coming in under the door. She woke me and we put on our clothes as quick as we could.

!I went to see if we could get out the front door but the hallway was full of black smoke.

“We put ourselves in the kitchen and put wet towels on our mouths keep the smoke away.

“The fire brigade came a couple of minutes later and they got James out the window, but we has to wait until they broke the window before they could get us out.”

Richard was speaking after returning from hospital where he was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation.

He said: “They carried out a few tests. I am alright. Everything seems ok.”

The blaze broke out in the communal stairwell in the block of six flats just before 6.30 am.

Four fire appliances from Northland Road and Crescent Link attended the scene at Carnhil in Derry.

Five residents were assisted down through the stairs by firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, while another four “rescued themselves,” said Trevor Ferguson, area commander, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service.

All had become trapped after thick black smoke from a burning large rug made the communal stairwell impassable.

Commander Ferguson added: “This was a complex operation. It’s not confirmed, but the fire could have been deliberate.”

No one was injured in the incident but Richard Meenan was taken to hospital for treatment for the effects of smoke inhalation.

Firefighters have been praised for their quick response to the incident.

Sinn Fein Cllr Tony Hassan said: “I would like to commend the quick response from the Fire Service in helping save the lives of the residents.”

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