Co Down fire-fighters exposed to asbestos risk


Fire-fighters had to be decontaminated today after dealing with a major blaze near a filling station in County Down.

They were exposed to asbestos as they tackled flames behind shop premises at the Barbican Centre on the outskirts of Newcastle.

Staff and customers were evacuated from the store as the fire threatened to spread.

All of them managed to escape unhurt. A total of 15 fire appliances and 75 crew members were needed to deal with the emergency at the station, which also forced the closure of the Dundrum Road.

Station commander Neil McGrath said: "As we were extinguishing the fire before it could spread into the shopping premises we identified the presence of asbestos tiles covering the premises.

"They were exploding and posed an additional risk to the crew involved.

"It was the asbestos which was the major problem and the people who were first on the scene needed to be decontaminated."

Residents in the surrounding houses had to close all windows amid fears of being exposed to dangerous fumes.

But Mr McGrath stressed there was never a danger of the blaze reaching petrol tankers on the other side of the filling station.

The wind had helped keep the flames in the other direction, he said. No cause for the fire has been identified and investigators are still waiting for the all clear before going into the burnt building to begin their examinations.

"We don't want to go in until the powers that be say the walls are strong enough," Mr McGrath added.