Blaze damage may cost over 250,000.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Blaze damage may cost over 250,000. thumbnail Local businessman and farmer, Adrian Cathers, beside the shells of three of the burnt out vehicles, including two tele-handlers, following the severe fire at his farm at Drumnakilly, near Omagh

An estimated 250,000 plus worth of damage has been caused to farm buildings and machinery on the outskirts of Omagh, following a major fire at the Drumnakilly Supplies Ltd property in the early hours of Sunday.

It lit up the night sky for miles around as four fire appliances and a high volume pumping machine worked to douse the dangerous flames using quantities of water from the nearby Drumnakilly burn.

Indeed, the blazing inferno - understood to have started accidentally - could have been much worse had it not been for the quick-thinking of neighbour, Sean McCrory from Mullaslin, who alerted the property owner, Adrian Cathers, his wife, Joanne, children Grace, Eve and Matthew; his brother Charlie and his family to the danger.

Mr McCrory was running late on his way back home from attending a handball tournament in Limerick with his daughter, Lisa, and her friend, Meghan McCann.

They were coming over the top of Brackey and noticed the smoke so instead of turning up by Drumnakilly bridge to Carrickmore to go home, they decided to investigate and when they realised what it was they alerted Adrian's brother, Charlie, to the situation as his was the first house they met on the laneway in.

The heat and flying sparks threatened both Charlie and Adrian's homes for a time, but fortunately as the wind was blowing in the other direction, the fire services were able to control the fire to the shed areas.

But while all stock was saved, major damage was caused to farm buildings and equipment including three telehandlers (forklifts) and a JCB Workmax which were completely destroyed.

Mr Cather's farm supplies company has been operating for over 10 years providing outstanding value and service to the agriculture sector. It services the whole of Ireland with many exclusive products and offers haulage, taking full and part loads to UK and Ireland with 45ft flatbed trailers and 45ft step frame trailers.

Customers and contacts from all over have been in touch since the fire offering support and encouragement.

Mr Cathers was relieved and thankful that no one had been hurt during the incident and praised both the fire services and his neighbours for their support during and since the event.

He said CCTV showed the fire was started by a bulb in the shed.

"About 1am I heard banging at my front door. It was my brother Charlie. We didn't know what was going on. He told me the shed was on fire. Thankfully Sean McCrory, his daughter, Lisa and her friend, Meghan, realised what was happening and alerted us.

I spoke to Sean afterwards, who said he was running late that night. I told him I was glad he was - it was the best night ever to be late! Only for that I don't know what would have happened."

He explained how along with his brother and another neighbour, Daryl McElmurray, they managed to move approximately 50 to 60 cattle out of the burning sheds and up into their back yard.

"When I came back down I was hoping to salvage some of the machines but everything was that well lit by that time it was dangerous to go near them." He added he checked their CCTV camera equipment for clues as to what may have started the fire.

"We have cameras in for the calving pens and it shows the fire was started by one of the bulbs above the straw around 12.30am to 12.45am. It fell across the slats to where hay was on the other side of the wall and lit the timber cladding.

Two of the loads of hay only came in the day before." He added it was too early to give any precise figure as to what the damage would come to, but he estimated it would be in excess of 250,000.

A total of five sheds were involved in the blaze all suffering varying degrees of structural, water and scorch damage.

Almost all of the metal guiders, support beams, railings and gates were damaged, warped or rendered unfit for purpose, while the roof of the two largest sheds were also completely destroyed with damage inflicted on the others.

Mr Cathers was high in his praise of the fire service for their quick response and valiant efforts to try and save as much of the buildings as possible. He said they even took a huge pumping machine over from Armagh and used water from the Drumnakilly burn about a quarter-of-a-mile away to keep a continuous supply of water coming to dampen the fire.

He also thanked neighbours who had come along that night and the next day to help and offer their services at this challenging time.

"We have great neighbours and more people ringing us and offering help. It took us from 9am to 3pm on Sunday to clear some of the sheds out, as we couldn't go in until it was daylight to see what we could do.

We had to keep dampening down the sheds, as the straw was still igniting. We were also conscious of the roof and what condition it was in.

"When something like this happens you have to take it on the chin and get up and go again. It was one of those things, an unfortunate freak accident. We didn't need or ask for it, but no one was hurt. We will be down for a few days, but hope to be back in action before the end of the week," he said.

He added in relation to this whole incident he wanted to point out that this was an excellent example of the farming community sticking together.

"I know the way things are in Northern Ireland but in farming there are no Catholics and no Protestants - there's just good neighbours.

The amount of people from the other side of the community that rang and called with me yesterday (Sunday) was great.

Farmers don't fight, they work together no matter what. That was a big help. It was important to me.

Farmers are not just neighbours, they're friends." He paid particular tribute to neighbours Sean Gorman and Colm McAleer, brotherin- law, Richard Hawkes and family friend, Christie Nethery, of Complete Beverage Service, Omagh, for their immediate and ongoing help.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said they received a call at 1.01am on the morning in question (December 3), the incident was dealt with by 2.23am and the cause of the fire was being investigated.


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