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Primark fire: one year on

NIFRS Area Commander Aidan Jennings NIFRS Area Commander Aidan Jennings
By Conor McParland

A Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) Area Commander says the Primark fire at Bank Buildings will remain with him forever.
Today (Wednesday) marks the first anniversary of the dark day when over 300 firefighters worked tirelessly over four days to extinguish the blaze, stop the fire spreading to adjacent buildings and prevent loss of life or injury.
The multi-agency response resulted in the new thirty thousand square foot rear section of Bank Buildings being protected, with Primark opening for business before Christmas 2018.
AC Jennings said: “Like many people the 28th of August and the four days that followed will remain with me forever. I will remember this incident for the expertise, resilience and dedication of firefighters and staff right across NIFRS as well as the outpouring of kindness, generosity and public-spiritedness.
“This underpinned and helped reinforce our operational response to this incident. As ever the resilience of the people of Belfast was matched by the action and support they offered.
“At the height of the incident over 100 firefighters, 14 fire appliances – including six specialist appliances – were involved in tackling the blaze. Firefighters from as far away as Armagh and Kilrea responded to the incident with both wholetime and on-call personnel being brought in from other Area Commands to attend the incident and provide resilience in Belfast during this time.
“The size, scope and intensity of this fire provided many challenges and I can vividly recall that iconic image of the clock in Bank Buildings burning and the impact that had on our personnel working so hard to save the building.
“On a number of occasions that afternoon Firefighters had to be withdrawn from internal firefighting operations within the building to prevent injury or loss of life due to escalating fire conditions and collapsing structure. Thankfully we were able to re-enter and establish the fire break within the protected staircases
“Working in extra ordinary and challenging circumstances Firefighters protected this area and are to be highly commended for their diligent efforts in preventing the fire spreading allowing the refurbished rear extension of the building and adjacent properties to be saved.
“Primark staff must also be commended for their swift action in evacuating the building prior to the arrival of Firefighters. Their actions undoubtedly helped save lives that day enabling the first responding crews to focus on dealing with the developing blaze.”
Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts called for a new and radical vision for Belfast and for the city to move on from the fire.
“As we mark the first anniversary of the Primark fire, the city needs to move forward and put this tragedy behind them. We need a bold, radical and new vision for the city,” he said.
“Retail NI is very ambitious for Belfast and we believe that a 21st Century city centre can be created with a dynamic retail and hospitality offer. It also needs to be a fun place for families to visit and enjoy
“Belfast city centre must also become a living community with residential opportunities for families.”
Lord Mayor of Belfast John Finucane added: ”It has been a challenging 12 months for our city centre traders, particularly those who were directly impacted by the necessary cordon and road closures that resulted.
“I’m pleased that our city centre is largely reopened again, and we have undertaken a lot of work in recent months with our city stakeholders and partners to get the message out there that Belfast is well and truly open for business; but we can’t take our foot off the pedal.
“We have an opportunity now, not just to go back to how things were, but to be creative about the future of our city centre and examine how Council can help support its development to cater for everyone’s needs including traders, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport providers.”

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