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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 April, 2004, 08:34 GMT 09:34 UK
Fire arcade 'may be pulled down'
Fire crews had to fight the flames from both sides of the complex
Fire crews had to fight the flames from both sides of the complex
A Belfast shopping arcade may have to be pulled down after it was extensively damaged in an overnight fire.

Dozens of people had to be moved out of buildings as firefighters dealt with the blaze at the North Street Arcade.

It is not yet known what caused the fire, which was discovered shortly after 2200 BST on Saturday.

Shops throughout the architecturally significant arcade were destroyed by the fire.

The centre runs between lower North Street and Donegall Street in the city centre.

Fire crews had to fight the flames from both sides of the complex.

However, they did manage to stop other buildings in the area from being seriously damaged.

Chief Fire Officer Colin Lammey said it was a major operation.

It was difficult because we just had to stand by - both my staff came up as well and they were very upset
Douglas McCammond
Pet shop owner

The disruption included moving people out of nearby pubs and flats.

Police and fire officers returned to the arcade on Sunday as part of an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Isaac King said he thought the fire had been burning for some time before the alarm was raised.

'Watched powerless'

As the building is not safe, it will probably be Monday morning before officers establish where exactly it started.

"It was a very rapidly growing fire," said Mr King.

"That suggests a lot of combustible materials were involved.

"It is far too early to ascertain what type of material was involved and it won't be ascertained until the building is deemed to be safe."

Shop owners were at the scene on Saturday night and watched powerless as their businesses were destroyed.
Police and fire officers returned to the arcade on Sunday
Police and fire officers returned to the arcade on Sunday

Douglas McCammond has had a pet shop in the arcade for 20 years and said there was not much hope for his animals.

"When we got up last night, the entire ground floor was fully ablaze and the first floor was well alight.

"It was difficult because we just had to stand by. Both my staff came up as well and they were very upset."

The arcade opened in the 1930s. Building control officers from the city council were at the scene and it is likely it will have to be pulled down.

Local resident Paul Hughes said it became more frightening as the flames grew.

"At one stage the flames were about 20 to 30ft," he said.

"There was quite a lot of smoke as well."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"Assistant Divisional Fire Officer Isaac King said he thought the fire had been burning for some time"


BBC NI's Shane Glynn:
"Building control officers from the city council were at the scene and it is likely it will have to be pulled down"



SEE ALSO:
Youths attack firefighters
16 Sep 03  |  Northern Ireland
Appeal over fire crew attacks
03 Sep 03  |  Merseyside
Firefighter 'sprayed in face'
31 Aug 03  |  Scotland


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