Fire left behind a trail of destruction when flames ripped through two cottages on Mountmellick’s Chapel Street early last Wednesday morning.
While one house, Lalors, was vacant, the other was occupied by Noeland Marie Delaney and their four young daughters and Marie’s elderly great aunt, Kit Hickey, all of whom escaped, traumatised but unharmed.
The alarm was raised just before 8am and Mountmellick Fire Service were first on the scene, arriving within minutes. However the fire was well alight at that stage and despite backup arriving from Portlaoise and Portarlington fire services, the homes were beyond saving.
Gardai were forced to evacuate people from surrounding homes because of fears of an explosion from a gas cylinder. This later turned out to be argon which is used for welding. Traffic was also diverted away from the houses until 5pm because the N80 through Mountmellick had to be closed.
One neighbour spoke of her own fear and her overwhelming sympathy for the Delaney family.
“It was scary to be evacuated, and it was unbelievable to think the street was at risk, it was surreal. It was awful for the family involved, but we are thankful that everybody was ok. It’s also tough for the Lalors,” she said.
Cllr Stephen Lynch whose father Brian lives on the street, praised the fire service for their quick response.
“It was great to see them up so fast, they tried their best, unfortunately the fire got out of control. It was sad to see those houses burnt but at least everyone got out safe,” he said.
Two water tankers and a hydraulic lift were brought in by Portlaoise Fire Service, and the Mountmellick crew were on site until after 6pm putting out all cinders.
“It was a prolonged job, but the crews worked well. We did manage to save all the equipment belonging to the owner,” said a spokesman for Laois Fire Service. Mr Delaney is the proprietor of Megabounce bouncy castles.
While the cause has yet to be confirmed, the fire is believed to have started just outside the back of Delaney’s house.
Garda Sargeant Gerry Cawley noted that the fire appeared to be accidental.