An appeal has been launched to help the family of a former Donaghcloney man whose home was destroyed in a fire at Rathfriland in the early hours of this morning (Tuesday, December 22).
Police suspect arson after the major fire spread from a recycling plant and engulfed a nearby Kiltarriff Drive home, forcing the family to flee in in the early hours of this morning.
The home belonged to former Donacloney man, Andy Peden with wife Rebecca and daughter Daisy.
Local DUP Councillor Mark Baxter launched an appeal to help the family, setting up a Just Giving page which raised over £2,000 in just a matter of hours - double the intended target.
The family got out of the detached house as fire crews arrived to tackle the major blaze at about 1.45am.
Paramedics treated one of the three on site, though all were said to have escaped without injury.
Seven appliances carried crews from Banbridge, Newry and Warrenpoint and a command support unit from Lisburn to the scene, where, hampered by weather conditions, more than 40 firefighters battled the blaze.
“On arrival, crews noted the fire involved one detached dwelling and plastics stored in the yard of a nearby factory,” said Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service area commander Paddy Gallagher, who described conditions as particularly difficult, due to high winds.
In the aftermath of the fire a number of crews remained at the scene to guard against flare-ups and residents were warned to stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed.
Police in Craigavon have now said they are treating the fire as suspicious.
A spokesperson said: “Police received a report of the fire at 1.51am on Tuesday, 22 December. NIFRS were in attendance.
“A house in nearby Kiltariff Drive also caught fire and was completely destroyed by the blaze. A second house was also damaged.
“Police are now working to establish the exact circumstances of the fire and would like to hear from anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the local area during the early hours of this morning.
“They would also like to hear from anyone who has information that may assist their investigation. They can be contacted on 101, quoting ref: 65 221215.”
The scene of the fire, which also damaged a nearby car, is one of devastation. The charred remains of toys and a child’s buggy are among the debris strewn around the house, it’s roof obliterated in the blaze.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said it was lucky, and a huge relief, that there were no serious injuries as a result of the incident.
Meanwhile NIFRS Group Commander Edward Carroll praised the fire crews for their swift response.
“I think it’s important,” he said, “that I praise the action of our crews. Their prompt action prevented the spread of further fires.
“The initial crews were hampered on arrival by very high winds; those high winds were actually fanning the flames.”