A Fire In A House In Limerick At Christmas

 Posted by on December 30, 2009  Add comments
Dec 302009
 

We’re going to Tom’s for a pint, walking down Catherine Street.  There’s noise in Cecil Street.  Commotion.  People shouting.  A woman shouting.  A man shouting.  Glass breaking.  A loud thud.

We don’t want to get involved.  It’s Christmas time.  People overdo the liquor and things can turn ugly.  Stay out of this.  We turn down the lane and enter Tom’s by the back door.

We order two pints and settle down.

There are blue flashing lights in the street.  More blue lights pass the window.

I go out the front door and look up the street.

There are firemen.  Ambulances.  Cops.

There are fire engines and motorcycles.

A house is on fire, with black, burnt-plastic smoke pouring out of its top windows and out of windows just above ground level, but not from the others.  It’s an old house converted into the kind of flats poor people live in.  In the old days such places used to be called tenements but these days they’re called apartments.  I’d call them slums.

There’s a body on the railings.

A body impaled on the railings, dead, and the firemen are lifting it off the spikes. A cop stands in the middle of the junction shouting at drivers.  Move on you nosy fucking bastard!

I think he was probably up there at the railings with the firefighters as they looked at the impaled man and decided what to do.  As they waited for somebody to pronounce him dead.

He’s probably entitled to curse at someone.  He’ll go home tonight and look at his children as they sleep, and maybe he’ll get some rest himself, or maybe he won’t.  Maybe he’ll spend the night staring at the ceiling.

Someone says the man jumped out of the top window.  He jumped out into the street, fell and died on the spikes of the railings.  There he is now, unmoving, on the railings as the firemen work to get him off.

A youngish guy in a hoodie says a washing machine started the fire.

They were fixing it, he tells a plainclothes cop.

Sit into the car  for a minute, says the plainclothes cop.  Tell me what happened.

I won’t be able to find my girlfriend.

Your girlfriend will be all right.  Sit in.

There are people running around in the street and the cops are holding them back.  People running around, trying to get into the burning house.  The cops hold them back.

There’s a smell of burning plastic, a synthetic smell, not the smell of old-fashioned house fires – wood and paint burning – but a smell of plastic and foam and cheap furniture burning.  Black oily smoke.

Someone says there’s a woman inside the house.  I don’t know about that.

The battery in my camera is dead, so I don’t take a picture, which is probably a good thing.  I meet somebody later who says the tabloids would pay two grand for a picture of the scene.  I wouldn’t want money like that.

The traffic is snarling up.  The cops haven’t closed off the junctions.  They seem disorganised.  They don’t know what to do.

Drivers are trying to push through.  Wait!  Wait until you’re told! a young cop in biker gear gear barks.  Then he adds, Please.

Why can’t they close off the junctions?

More ambulances arrive.  Stretchers.

The firemen have lifted the body off the railings.  The firemen have put out the fire.  The smoke has stopped but the smell is still there.  Plastic burning.

Blood on the street.

I go back inside Tom’s.

The next day, there’s a young girl in a police uniform guarding the door.  There’s crime-scene tape on the railings. Tape and wet blankets.  The cops are taking away burnt washing machines on the back of a truck.

There’s a sheet of plywood on the ground hiding the blood.

  35 Responses to “A Fire In A House In Limerick At Christmas”

Comments (35)
  1.  

    Is it me or is there atleast one fatality in cecil street due to an apartment fire every couple of years atleast. This is very sad stuff, that’s the second person to die being impaled on those type of spikes in a couple of years too. Cecil street does seem to be rife with building fires though.

  2.  

    I arrived later on that scene, absolutely terrible. I’m no fire expert, but looking at those flats it seems to me the only way out if there is a fire is to jump out the window.

  3.  

    Tenements BOCK, that still is the correct term. Apartments my bollix.

    God rest his soul.

  4.  

    A harrowing and vivid description Bock.

    @Seconds Out : I could not agree more, they are giant death traps.

  5.  

    the burned out flat on the left hand side , used to be a place i lived in for a while. it was small, you could lie in the single bed, (which was against one wall) and touch the sink which was against the opposite wall. the room was the length of a single bed plus around 7 feet. on that floor level there were 3 “apartments”. i don’t know if its been renovated in recent times. the toilet shared by the 3 flats was down a flight of stairs. no smoke alarms and i can’t remember a fire escape. rent was £22 a week, heating and tv worked and it had a central location. only one way out of that building if a fire did start though.

  6.  

    Almost 2010 and people are still living in shit holes like these,Why is there no law regarding a fire escape ?

  7.  

    There are laws. Compliance is the question.

  8.  

    Christ thats bad,

    You would have imagined after someone was killed there a few years ago there would have being a building inspection.

  9.  

    Did someone mention vivid reporting ? Jesus what a sad story, but vivid Bock.

  10.  

    Drove past there last night on way to railway station.

    The building regulations state that each apartment should be compartmentalised and protected on all sides by material giving at least one hour fire resistance. That is to say, the walls, ceilings, floors would contain a fire for at least one hour. The doors should then afford 30 minutes fire and smoke protewction.

    Based on a cursory glance last nigh, I doubt these apartments complied. I have spoken to Limerick City Council Fire Officers about other buildings that constitute a fire hazard and they say they do not have the resources to inspect all buildings. they arre aware that many building are potentially dangerouse. They may have time now as the buildiung boom has ended.

    I sincerely hope there is an inquiry and the owner is brought to account.

  11.  

    LL-You’re right.It isn’t the first incident in that block in which someone died.I lived in what can only be described as an overpriced tinderbox which was owned by a well known Limerick solicitor(on the same street but not the same block as above mentioned building).Lived on the fourth floor with no escape routes.
    Nobody will be held to account for this tragedy.

  12.  

    BFH — Not quite. The technical guidance documents suggest certain measures, but the building regulations wouldn’t apply if the houses were subdivided in flats before 1991. However, there’s also the Fire Services Act, but unfortunately no regulations to support it.

  13.  

    Bock – You are correct in what you say. If building was converted to apartments before 1991 then the landlord would not be obliged to comply with current building standards. My understanding is that if any modifications were made to the property since then a Fire Safety Certificate would have needed to be applied for. Aso, it is my understanding that in order to rent to people on Rent allowance you need to have a fire safety certificate. I may be wrong in that.

  14.  

    The lads in the fire service did a great job there last night. they arrived on scene i’m told and had the ladder off the back of the fire truck in seconds and one of them climbed up and grabbed the other person from the window. Well done Limerick City Fire and Rescue.a tuff job May the person who died rest in peace.

  15.  

    Those flats in Cecil st have been a ticking time-bomb for years and the Corporation should have closed any of them that did not have fire escapes. Regulations my arse. Another life needlessly lost. My condolences to the family of that poor man.

  16.  

    Very very sad, A friend of mine carried out research on several buildings back in the ’80’s, All those houses, Cecil st, Catherine st, Mallow st etc were about 90% no fire escapes, or any form of fire proofing, As the majority were relativly low rent, I doubt the Landlords had much concern for their occupants.
    It was brought to the attention of the Corporation back then.
    Its treacherous that to-day these people are’nt brought to book about the conditions they accept money for that people have to live and die in.
    How far has Limerick come from Angela’s Ash’s ? not as far as the Landlords think.
    I suppose Limerick isn’t exclusive it’s that Irish attitude of ” getting away with it “

  17.  

    BFH — A certificate would only be required in relation to any new work. I don’t know what rules the rent allowance people apply, but those rules would have no statutory force.

    Me — The Fire Brigade were extremely efficient. I saw them at work and they did everything exactly as they should.

    Limericklass — It’s too simplistic to talk about fire escapes. There are other ways to deal with these issues, but they involve a professional design approach which costs money. Spending money is normally not a consideration for slum landlords.

    Norma– Same comment as above.

  18.  

    I used live next door in no.16, absolute dumps , glorified bedsits, and that was early ’90s. In my time there were no fire escapes, nowt has changed. Tragic and could have been avoided, If the world did’nt have hungry , underhand landlords. I agree with Unstranger, they’re tennaments, interesting to see what will Actually be done to prevent a repeat of this.

  19.  

    Was it only last year that the spine wall (a wall across the centre of the building in line with the front wall) collasped in a building on the same street, on the same side as this building but below tom’s. The owner had to be forced to make it safe.
    This area was built in the 1790’s. The cost to maintain these buildings to a proper standard may be greater than their value.
    Most of them have shops and offices on the ground floor now, but it can be worth your while to look at the top floors from across the street. check out the window cills and just see just how much they have sank over the years.

  20.  

    Spine walls are a common problem with Georgian houses because they’re constructed as timber stud walls, believe it or not. Over the centuries, the timber in many of our city-centre Georgian houses has deteriorated due to rot or just by drying out too much. The walls tend to shrink by a significant amount and this causes the upper floors to slope and the doorways to go out of shape.

    I woulldn’t agree with you about their value. This is our architectural heritage and it’s priceless, even though many houses have been vandalised by idiot owners, as you can see from the dreadful plastic windows in the house where the fire happened. Unfortunately, the tendency is for fine old buildings to fall into the hands of insensitive gobshites.

  21.  

    Horrifically it seems the young man did not die on impact. May he rest in peace. A dreadful waste of a young life .

  22.  

    Great writing, horible story, a good lawyer in this case could close the block down until it was brought up to code .We have similar brownstones in america with metal add on balconies with drop down rail fire escapes. FFS this is just appaling in this day and age where is the moral compass .

  23.  

    Horrific tragety which will no doubt be repeated in the future. Covered in the Indo by none other than Barry Duggan. Does he ever file a story about anything positive in Limerick? He reports all the shitty and violent bits and then “writes” a book about it, what a talent. Sorry to go off topic.

  24.  

    Jesus Bock, if that’s 15 Cecil St I lived there for a while in the late 70’s in two different bedsits at different times – on the ground floor and on the first floor. It was a fairly manky old place then, but not as small as Gerryo describes – fairly typical bedsit in one big room. The worst was the shared jaxes on the landings, there was an alcohlic ould fucker of a barber called Mr Figaro living there, and he used to miss the target if you get my meaning. I moved up to Henry St, and didn’t the bastard move to the same house. I had to threaten him with substantial violence to get him to use a bloody toilet properly. Eventually the landlord in Henry St threw him out.

    Nuts

  25.  

    [deleted]

  26.  

    Ted

    Your comment was deleted out of respect for the young man’s family.
    If you have any more bullshit to post, please write it on a sheet of toilet paper.

  27.  

    as i read all of your comments my eyes filled up with tears i dont think anybody who were there that night will ever forget it ,it was like a nightmare comin true everything happend soo fast let me introduce myself my name is rebecca im 15 now in august i was the last person to talk to brien power the poor man that dyed on that horrible night .even though i didnt know the man i still think about him every day an the hole experience of it every minute of the day i wake up screamin sum nights i will always remember him an that look in his eyes before he died i took his hand while the tears ran down my face i told him he would be ok but i was wrong you called me your angel an closed yours eyes again

    rest in peace brian im sorry i couldnt have done more for you on that fatal night xxxx
    (RebeccA)X

  28.  

    Hi Rebecca. Thanks for telling your story. It must be hard for you to re-live the experience.

  29.  

    Rebecca,well done to you young lady,you were unbelievably brave in an incredibly difficult situation when the easiest thing would’ve been to run away.You should be very proud of yourself girl,most people WOULD have walked away.Good luck to you Rebecca,you are far stonger and more brave than you realise!

  30.  

    Rebecca, you deserve a medal. You did everything you could and will always be remembered for it.
    Brian was lucky to have had you in his final hour.

    Bock I notice you deleted a comment out of respect for the mans family, do you not think you shouldnt have printed this out f respect for the family.
    “The battery in my camera is dead, so I don’t take a picture, which is probably a good thing. I meet somebody later who says the tabloids would pay two grand for a picture of the scene. I wouldn’t want money like that”

    Lucky your batteries were dead, why would anyone want a picture of something so horrific

  31.  

    ellisisland – The story is told as I felt it. Nothing I wrote disrespects the family or the deceased, unlike the deleted comment.

    My instinct is always to take a picture, because that’s what I do. However, as I said clearly, the point is academic since the camera wasn’t working anyway, and I was glad of it. I did NOT say I would sell a picture, but I can tell you for a fact, the scummy tabloids would pay for it.

  32.  

    Point taken, people who do that for a living should be ashamed of themselves.

  33.  

    to throw in a bit of balance – and nothing to do with the poor man that died
    without looking at cold currency, many people think slum landlords all have the half a million in their back pocket to update one of these buildings or that the current rent is all pure profit (not paying back loans etc.)
    If landlord doesn’t have it under the mattress, they’d need to borrow and then they’d have to increase the rents,to service that extra borrowing
    with a broke government not able to afford more rent subsidies – the net effect is you’d have to hit the less well off/tenants in the pocket – whether you closed these buildings and made them move up the accomodation chain to newer lodgings – at higher rents – or forced the cost of upgrading existing buildings on the owners.
    the lazy way of thinking is to blame the ‘slumdog millionaire’ landlords, but closing them down or forcing upgrades – inevitably increases rents, making the poor even poorer and even forcing some onto the streets.
    Would any of us volunteer to pay more tax – to cover higher rent aid on better buildings for the less well off?

  34.  

    I would have thought a basic requirement from any landlord would be to provide a fire escape for their tenants. Im sure they’d enough money under their mattress to invest in one of these if they’d any consideration for the people paying to live in their building. Anyway nothing was taken from this awful incident where a man lost his life because there still isnt a fire escape and the buildings are just as bad as they were. The council are to blame also, health and safety standards obviously mean nothing in this city.

  35.  

    I used to live in apartment 1no 16,well back in my youth 2001 or 03,i was on the social at the start and by the end, working in the imperial on carey’s rd or the cinema, my regular diet was chicken hut. Buildings should be flattened, they are not of great historical significance. They flattened all of went before Arthur’s Quay and also the houses and lanes where the green is now, between the peoples park and austin quinlavins pub, what is a bigger outcry is the building of the apartment block in the maintenance yard of the people’s park, not any future demolition of Cecil street upper. The old Henry Cecil was listed, and at the same time ripped down, albeit by some underhandedness.

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