A fire chief has spoken of how six brave firefighters with breathing apparatus attempted to get into The Manhattan at the height of Sunday morning’s blaze, fearing there were people trapped inside.
Fire Service Group Commander Edward Carroll said the men donned the equipment because the first reports indicated there may have been people in the building.
Despite a raging inferno, firefighters attempted to gain entry but the ferocity of the fire was so intense they were unable to get in.
“Due to the ferocity of the fire they had to withdraw,” Commander Carroll told the ‘MAIL’.
The fire had been reported at 5.20am on Sunday morning and crews from Lurgan arrived first on the scene with five appliances, two aerial appliances and a command support unit involving 41 personnel arriving soon after.
Crews followed from Portadown, Lisburn, Dromore and Belfast.
It took more than five hours for the fire to be brought under control during what Commander Carroll described as ‘a very difficult fire’.
“Initially we were given to understand people were still in the premises but we established there was no one there. The manager said he was the last one to leave.”
He said extensive damage to the building had caused two floors to collapse as well as the roof to partially collapse.
“It was a difficult fire to bring under control and I have to praise the of crews who actually brought the fire under control,” he said.
Commander Carroll said there was concern regarding the structural integrity of the building following the fire and therefore it is currently not safe to enter to carry out an internal investigation.
However, the Fire Service will be able to carry out an investigation with aerial and eye witness evidence until they are able to enter the building.
He praised his officers saying that he was in no doubt it was due to their prompt action that the fire was contained.