Rathfriland fire: Mother ‘thankful we are all here today’

Andrew Peden and his wife Rebecca who escaped the fire.
Andrew Peden and his wife Rebecca who escaped the fire.

The Rathfriland mother who was forced to flea her burning home with her husband and young daughter has said even though they are devastated their house has been gutted “thank God we are all here today”.

Police in Craigavon are treating a fire at a recycling plant which spread to their Kiltarriff Drive home as suspicious.

The scene at Kiltariff Drive in Rathfriland, Co Down, where a family escaped injury after a major fire at a recycling centre spread to their house

The scene at Kiltariff Drive in Rathfriland, Co Down, where a family escaped injury after a major fire at a recycling centre spread to their house

Rebecca Peden, 24, said she was wakened in the early hours by her 27-year-old husband Andrew who had been alerted to the fire by someone banging at the door.

Forty-two firefighters worked to bring the blaze under control.

Rebecca told the News Letter: “We are devastated and gutted. We have nothing left. My husband has just been around to the house and it is all gone. Photographs and wedding photographs and pictures of my wee girl are all gone. We have nothing.

“It is heartbreaking. But thank God that we are all here today. That is the one good thing. It could have been so, so much worse.”

The scene at Kiltariff Drive in Rathfriland, Co Down, where a family escaped injury after a major fire at a recycling centre spread to their house

The scene at Kiltariff Drive in Rathfriland, Co Down, where a family escaped injury after a major fire at a recycling centre spread to their house

Mrs Peden said her husband initially woke her saying ‘the place is on fire’.

“He said later someone was banging at the door but he was half sleeping and we can’t think our neighbour enough,” she added.

“Andrew woke me up, grabbed Daisy and downstairs we went and there was smoke everywhere. He ran through the front door with her.

“Daisy is okay thank God but Andy had to be seen by the paramedics and they got him on oxygen. But he is fine now.

“It was like a dream. Everyone has been so, so good and we are so thankful for everyone.”

A PSNI spokesman said they received a report of the fire at 1.51am today.

He said 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.

He added that NIFRS were this morning continuing to deal with the fire and residents in Kiltarriff Drive are advised to stay indoors with doors and windows closed.

A statement from the NIFRS said their crews are expected to remain at the scene to damp down some parts of the recycling centre.

A spokesman said on arrival at the scene this morning “crews noted the fire involved one detached dwelling and plastics stored in the yard of a nearby factory”.

He said appliances from neighbouring stations Newry, Warrenpoint and Banbridge attended along with a dedicated command support unit from Lisburn.

“Over 40 firefighters have been involved in fighting the fire, with conditions particularly difficult due to high winds.”

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has spoken of her relief that nobody was killed or injured as a result of overnight fire.

“There is a sense of relief that nobody was killed or injured as a result of the overnight fire at the recycling plant at Rathfriland which resulted in the safe evacuation of residents from two houses in Kiltarriff Drive,” she said.

“I understand that a man, woman and young children were able to get out of their house in Kiltarriff Drive before the fire spread near their property in the estate.

“Fires always present dangers – but at Christmas time – a period of celebration, hope and expectation – fires bring a degree of sadness and fear. I trust that the residents who had to be evacuated from their homes to ensure their safety will be returned to their properties in time to celebrate the festive season.”

She paid tribute to the “firefighters from Rathfriland, Warrenpoint, Newry and Lisburn who have to work day and night in life saving operations to extinguish fires”.

And Sinn Féin MLA Chris Hazzard who also praised the prompt response of the Fire and Rescue Service said: “Thankfully no one was injured in this blaze and that is no doubt due to the prompt response of the Fire and Rescue Service.

“At the height of this fire 40 firefighters and seven appliances from a number of local fire stations were involved in tackling the blaze.

“Their task in bringing the fire under control was made all the more challenging by the high winds last night.

“There will now be a major clean up operation for those involved but thankfully tragedy was averted in this incident.”