'Utter madness'

CONCERNED local reps have said that it was ‘a miracle’ that local lives were not lost when a number of properties were apparently torched over the weekend.

Residents in a block of flats had to be rescued by firefighters following a suspected arson attack shortly before midnight on Friday.

The blaze had been started at the front door of flats on Barra Street shortly before 11.30pm - and a number of terrified residents were trapped inside as thick smoke spread through the building.

Thankfully the police and firefighters were quickly on the scene.

“Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue personnel responded to the incident and removed the occupants to safety,” said a PSNI spokesman.

“At this time it is believed that a flammable liquid was poured through the letterbox and set alight, however, investigators remain at the scene conducting a number of enquiries.

“There have been no reports of any injuries at this time.

“Detectives are investigating and would ask anyone with any information to call them at Antrim on the non-emergency number 101 quoting reference number 2259 21/05/21.”

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service confirmed that four appliances raced to the scene.

“At 23.22 hours, Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service were called to a report of a fire at an apartment block in Barra Street, Antrim.

“While four appliances were on route, our Regional Control Centre personnel used emergency call handling techniques to advise and reassure the multiple occupants that were unable to evacuate due to dense smoke.

“The fire in a communal area was extinguished and fire fighters using breathing apparatus led six occupants to safety.

“The incident finished at 00:41hrs and the scene was handed over to PSNI.

“The cause of the fire is being treated as deliberate.”

In the second, unrelated incident, police said they received a report that a fire had started on the first floor of a house in Rathmore Gardens shortly before 2am on Saturday.

“Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue crews attended the incident and found that there was no one home at the time,” said a police spokesperson.

“One man was arrested a short time later under suspicion of arson and is currently assisting police with enquiries.”

A 33-year-old was subsequently charged with arson, endangering life with intent and criminal damage. He is expected to appear before Antrim Magistrate’s Court on June 15.

The fires have been roundly condemned by political representatives.

* See page 3 for further reports.

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