‘Wall of flame 20 feet high’ trapped local residents

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th April 2016

The scene on the Coast Road outside Larne where an overnight fire gutted a house with an old tank catching fire and spreading to the next house. 

Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 12th April 2016 The scene on the Coast Road outside Larne where an overnight fire gutted a house with an old tank catching fire and spreading to the next house. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

A Ballygally resident has relived the terrifying house fire which gutted a neighbouring Coast Road property on Tuesday morning.

Johneen Black told the Times that he and his wife Karen were trapped in the back garden of their property as a 20 foot wall of flame raged at the front of their house.

“Originally when we looked out of the window we thought our decking had gone up on fire, then we realised it was our neighbour and her house was ablaze,” he recalled.

“In the meantime, our other neighbour Hastings’ wife Rosamund had been sitting up reading when she noticed something was wrong and sent Hastings to investigate.

“He started banging on the front door of the house that was affected and then its oil tank triggered and burst into flames.

“Our neighbour then managed to get out of the house and jumped into our back garden, but we were all trapped there as the fuel had run down to the front and there was a 20 foot wall of flames at the front of the house.

“Everything happened so fast, within minutes flames were coming up through the slated roof of our neighbours’ kitchen.

“We jumped over other houses’ walls to get out and banged on the window of another resident as the only way out of the gardens is through the garages.

“However, the electricity had gone out and she was confused and had dropped her key in the darkness.

“At the same time, the rest of the neighbours were out the front looking for us.

“The wind was causing the fire to spread quickly and my biggest fear was that the fire would hit our oil tank, and if that happened all three of the houses would have gone up.”

After jumping over neighbouring garden walls, the trio managed to climb onto a garage roof where they were spotted by other residents, who had feared they were trapped in the burning house.

“The ambulance came then and my neighbour who had been in the worst-affected house was taken to hospital,” Johneen continued.

“She had been affected by the heat and suffered burns to her elbow but overall she was okay, she was very resilient.

“She had been injured but she didn’t show any signs.

“She saved her own life.

“Her husband had been at work and he was on his way home when he heard his house was on fire.”

The next day, Johneen says his neighbours were “philosophical” about the damage to their property, which was left a blackened shell by the fire.

“They had spent a long time renovating their house and they had just managed to get it how they wanted it when everything was destroyed,” he continued.

“But they are alive.”