Esker Hills residents say house fire is 'the last straw'

Photos of the damage caused by a fire in Portlaoise estate

There was anger among residents in Esker Hills on Tuesday evening following a fire at a derelict house in the estate in Portlaoise.

A house at 70, Laurel Drive, Esker Hills was set ablaze just before 3pm on Tuesday afternoon and it is understood that youths were seen running from the scene.

Chief Fire Officer for Laois County Fire and Rescue Service, Declan Power, confirmed that arson was suspected.

"The house was unoccupied and boarded up and although investigations are ongoing into the cause it is likely to have been started deliberately," he said.

It is currently not known who owns the house and residents say they have attempted to find the owners. None of the residents who spoke to the Leinster Express wished to share their names because in the past people who spoke out have had their cars keyed.

"I live here and all of the houses on this green have been trying to maintain that house for the last nine years and no one knows who owns it. We have been on to the banks, the council, the guards we cannot get any information," said one resident.

"We have ran kids out of it, we have ran junkies out of it, we have all put our own lives at risk for it and now this is it, this is the final straw," the resident added.

"The residents have been fighting for nine years to find out who owns that. You can go around to any residents on this green, we have all rang, we have rang guards, council’s, solicitors, Owenass Development just to find out who does own it and nothing," the resident said. 

"For years we have been fighting on this green over that house looking for help, looking for answers, for years," one resident commented.

"You have to look at it everyday coming into your home, it was bad before, now it is worse. I find it embarrassing if you have family coming down to visit and they have to drive by and look at that," they added.

"It is very upsetting to see something like that when there are people homeless, children homeless and teenagers are bored out of their heads. Teenagers did this for a laugh. They have no respect, they don’t care," added another.

The residents said that they heard the windows in the house being smashed with brick on Saturday afternoon last.

Residents say that they now live with the worry that other derelict houses in the estate will be next.

"You know what makes me sick? You pay for your mortgage, you live in your home, you work hard and you have to look at this, that is what annoys me and no one helps you in a housing estate. This is the start of it, is there another abandoned house that is going to be set up next?" said another resident.

The residents expressed concern towards another house in the estate that they think is a hub for anti-social behaviour and they fear that it could be set on fire next.

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