Coffin factory in Co Tyrone ‘destroyed’ by huge fire

Fire brigade fighting blaze in Strabane which may have been caused by lightning storm

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @BernieMullen of the large fire that has broken out at O’Doherty and Sons coffin manufacturers in Railway Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Bernie Mullen/Twitter/PA Wire

Picture taken with permission from the Twitter feed of @BernieMullen of the large fire that has broken out at O’Doherty and Sons coffin manufacturers in Railway Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone. Photograph: Bernie Mullen/Twitter/PA Wire

 

A Co Tyrone coffin factory has been destroyed in a fire after it was reportedly hit by lightning.

Around 80 firefighters were battling on Sunday evening to bring the blaze at Railway Street in Strabane under control.

The workshop and warehouse of O’Doherty and Sons coffin and casket makers was said to be among the businesses impacted.

One former employee said the warehouse would contain “hundreds and hundreds” of coffins at any one time, which are shipped all over the world. “It would be an absolute tinder box,” he said.

There are a number of businesses adjoining the factory, including a carpet warehouse.

O’Doherty and Sons is a major employer in Strabane, where it has operated since 1908. The smoke from the blaze could be seen 25km away in Derry.

The Northern Ireland Fire Service (NIFRS) said it was alerted to the outbreak at 4.10pm on Sunday.

“We are currently dealing with a large commercial building on fire,” a spokesman said.

It is expected firefighters will continue their efforts into Monday.

People have been asked to stay out of the area due to “the high level of activity” while residents in the town have been ordered to keep windows and doors closed.

The cause is “currently under investigation”, the spokesman added.

SDLP councillor for Strabane Jason Barr said the coffin warehouse was “completely destroyed”.

“As regards to the cause, there is nothing concrete yet on exactly how it happened but there was speculation about lightning or it could have been electrical. But that’s all hearsay. A lot of people are saying lightning.”

There was a “fierce” thunder and lightning storm passing through the town at the time of the fire, Mr Barr said.

The UK Met Office issued a status yellow thunderstorm warning across Northern Ireland on Sunday, while Met Éireann issued an alert for counties Cavan, Donegal, Monaghan, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Meath and Westmeath.