Four Families Flee Following Newcastle Arson Attack

Police are investigating the report of a suspected arson attack at a property at Bracken Avenue in Newcastle in the early hours of Sunday 30 October 2016.

NIFRS personnel attended at around the scene at 1.30 am and extinguished the fire which is being treated as deliberate.

A scene of devastation at Bracken Avenue after an arson attack in the early hours of Sunday morning.
A scene of devastation at Bracken Avenue after another  arson attack in the early hours of Sunday morning.

A wheelie bin is believed to have been set on fire and pushed against oil tanks causing them to ignite. Substantial damage was caused to the nearby flats and fencing.

Another serious arson attack occurred in 2015 when arsonist(s) again set fire to oil tanks in the area close to the Monday morning fire. (See link below).

Detective Sergeant Trish Bardon has appealed to anyone who has any information about this incident to contact detectives in Downpatrick on 101 quoting reference number 278 30/10/16 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Another four homes are wrecked in Bracken Avenue in Newcastle.  A year ago 10 flats were destroyed by an arsonist(s).
Another four homes are wrecked in Bracken Avenue in Newcastle. A year ago 10 flats were destroyed by an arsonist(s).

A spokesperson from the NI Housing Executive said: “The Housing Executive can confirm there was a fire at Bracken Avenue which affected a number of our properties.

“The site has been secured and our maintenance team will be cleaning the area. The full extent of the damage will then be assessed.

“Members of our local team have been in contact with the four households affected to discuss their housing need and our housing officers and local neighbourhood warden remain available to speak with local residents.

“We would encourage anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the PSNI on the non-emergency number 101.”

The incident has been condemned by local politicians. South Down MP Margaret Ritchie  said: “Families were forced from their homes in Bracken Avenue after someone set light to an oil tank causing damage to four houses.

“Four families have been forced from their homes and are now picking up the pieces from this senseless and deplorable act of destruction.

“I’m sure it has caused them great distress and our thoughts will be with them in the time ahead. The local community stand in solidarity with them and I’m sure they will assist in any way possible as they get back on their feet.

“I’m pleased to hear that at least three of the have found temporary accommodation with friends and family.

“This is not the first time that this has happened and it is very fortunate that nobody has been harmed. That their lives were put in danger is utterly shameful and beyond the danger posed to the families, the deliberate destruction of social housing at a time when waiting lists are so long is deeply disappointing.

SDLP Mournes Councillor Laura Devlin said: “There is real shock and disgust within the local community following this horrible attack.

“Those responsible must be brought to task and so I encourage anyone with any relevant information to contact the police immediately.”

Mourne’s Sinn Fein Cllr Willie Clarke condemned the actions of those who deliberately set fire to a number of oil tanks in Bracken Avenue at the weekend. He was concerned at the possible threat to life.

Mourne's Councillor Will Clarke is extremely concerned about the number of arson attacks in Newcastle's Burrendale estate.
Mourne’s Councillor Will Clarke is extremely concerned about the number of arson attacks in Newcastle’s Burrendale estate.

Cllr Clarke said: “This is the fifth arson attack at this estate in a year, and it is sickening that someone in our community is putting the lives of many vulnerable citizens at risk. The community are angry that arsonists have again attacked their community, there is a considerable amount of frustration from residents, which I share, 14 housing units lost, in an area that has over 200 families in Housing stress.”

Having visited-the scene on Sunday morning Cllr Clarke said:  “There was considerable damage to the flats, this most recent act of insane vandalism was carried out by irresponsible people intent on destroying communities.

“It is a miracle that residents, didn’t lose their lives, this is largely down to residents who raised the alarm and the emergency services quick response, the community cannot be expected to live with the fear of the next arson attack. I would like to thank the emergency services for their efforts, the Housing Executive officers for providing emergency accommodation,

“The redevelopment process at the flats has taken a considerable period of time, the flats that were damaged from the arson attack last November have not yet been repaired, January was the expected commencement date, it is important that the this rebuild is completed as quickly as possible. My preferred option to demolish the flats and replace them with 2 bedroom housing units was rejected.

“I have made known my views in what needs to be carried out by the NI Housing Executive. There needs to be improved lighting, measures to reduce the numbers who have access to the rear communal areas, CCTV installation in the communal stairways and ensuring the intercom system is working.

“I want those who are engaging in this type of behaviour to realise the gravity of their actions, an arson attack of this scale could have resulted in the loss of life.

“Someone must know who is responsible. I would urge anyone with information in regards this attack to make it available to the PSNI or another third party, including myself.”