[ACNS] A firefighter has been taken to hospital after being injured tackling a blaze at a church in the Dunmurry district of Belfast, Northern Ireland, this morning (Monday). The Rector of the Church was also taken to hospital to be treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. Neither was seriously injured; but the damage to the church is said to be “significant.”
The fire was spotted by the Rector of St Colman’s Parish Church, the Revd Adrian McLaughlin, in the early hours of this morning when he spotted a “glow” from the rectory.
“He attempted to tackle the blaze but the fire quickly took hold and Adrian had to flee the building,” a spokesman for the Diocese of Connor said. “He was later treated in hospital for the effects of smoke inhalation.”
Seven fire appliances from Cadogan, Lisburn, Springfield and Central fire stations attended the blaze alongside the Fire Emergency Support Service appliance. The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said that the firefighter who had been taken to hospital received “non-serious injuries” when he was hit by falling masonry.
“I got up to let our cat in and spotted what I thought was a light in the church,” the Revd Adrian McLaughlin said. “I pulled my boots on and went over. The place was full of smoke, so I searched for the source, and got the hose while my wife Christine called the Fire Brigade.
“But it was like putting petrol on a bonfire. The place literally exploded in my face. The building dates to 1908 and everything in it was so dry. I had to run for my life. The roof just went up and the zinc pipes in the organ melted like chocolate in front of me.
“I have learned a valuable lesson, and it is a lesson for everyone. When you see a fire, you have to get out.”
The rector praised the Fire Service, describing their actions as “superb.”
The fire, which was extinguished by 5.20am, is being treated as “accidental.” The extent of the damage is being assessed today, but McLaughlin described it as “significant.”
“The stonework and the arches were burned, the organs have gone and we were gifted a chandelier before Christmas and it has been destroyed,” he said. “The furniture in the choir stalls was destroyed, and the keyboards, the lectern, in fact everything is sodden and stained with tar and water.”
Adrian said that other local churches had been quick to offer their support and this was appreciated by the parish.
“I am very upset for the people of Dunmurry Parish, but we will get through this and it will pull us together as a congregation,” he said, adding: “It was a very, very frightening experience, and I hope and pray that through it other people will learn that if there is a fire, you have to get out.”