A Fire Chief has branded last Tuesday’s blaze at the old Waveney Laundry premises in Ballymena as “a very big life risk”.
Area commander Gary Thompson said the Fire and Rescue Service had difficulty getting access to the fire because the Clonavon Road South premises are surrounded by homes.
“This was a very big life risk,” he said.
“At one stage, when the crews arrived, flames were 10ft from adjacent properties. It was a very complex layout building, tightly in through narrow streets”.
The Area Commander added: “If this had have happened at the middle of the night and gone undetected for a while it could’ve been a more serious incident.
“Certainly it would’ve spread to multiple properties and there would have been mass rescues at that stage.”
Instead, there was a mass evacuation, with some 30 homes cleared of occupants, amid concerns that the flames could spread.
They were taken to Harryville Community Centre while fire crews tried to contain the blaze which had broken out on the first floor of the property at around 4pm.
Residents who remained in their homes and business owners in the area were advised to keep their windows and doors shut to avoid the inhalation of harmful fumes.
It is understood that because of the age of the building, there were fears that asbestos may have been part of its structure.
At the height of the inferno, 50 firefighters, six pumps and two aerial appliances were at the scene.
Part of the building collapsed during the fire and the cause has yet to be identified.
A PSNI spokesperson said yesterday (Monday) that police enquiries were still on-going and made a fresh appeal for anyone with information about the fire or who witnessed anything suspicious in the area at the time to come forward.
They can contact the detectives in Ballymena on 0845 600 8000 or call into Ballymena Police Station and ask to speak with CID.
Or, if someone would prefer to provide information without giving their details, they can contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.