A suspected arson attack which has destroyed a house in Newtownabbey came “out of the blue” according to a councillor for the area.
One house was extensively damaged by the fire in the Birchmount area which is thought to have started when a bin was set alight to the rear of the property, and a neighbouring property also sustained scorch damage as flames spread.
The News Letter understands that there had been people in both houses when the fire began. However, they quickly evacuated and no one was injured.
It is believed the house which was destroyed was rented by a man who lived on his own while the other property was a family home.
Local councillor Stephen Ross of the DUP said: “One house is completely and utterly gutted and the side of another house is badly damaged. Thankfully everybody did get out quickly.”
He added: “I spoke to the man who lived in the house [that was destroyed in the fire]. He was gutted, absolutely gutted. As are the young family in the other house. They’re all finding it hard to comprehend, worrying about where they’re going to sleep now.”
Commenting on the Birchmount area where the incident happened, he said: “It’s totally and utterly out of the blue.
“This is not an area where these sort of things happen.
“It’s a well-established residential area, a quiet area with families all around it. It’s a solid, secure, safe community. People move there and stay there for generations.
“It’s a community where everyone looks out for each other. I find it hard to see a deliberate arson attack taking place here, and for it to happen on a Saturday afternoon is strange. I’ll await to hear more from the police on the investigation.”
The PSNI said the blaze was reported to them at around 2pm by colleagues in the NI Fire and Rescue Service.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “It is their assessment that a recycling bin to the rear of the houses was set alight and the flames then spread to the homes. Two vehicles parked outside were also extensively damaged.”
The fire also damaged an electricity substation leaving around 50 people living nearby without power.
Detectives working to establish a motive have appealed for witnesses or anyone with information to call 101, quoting reference 675 13/04/19.