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  1. ITV Report

House gutted in arson attack in Newtownabbey

The scene of the arson attack in the Birchmount area of Newtownabbey. Credit: UTV

A man and a family have escaped injury after their homes were damaged in a suspected arson attack in Newtownabbey.

Police were alerted to the blaze in the Birchmount area by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service at 2pm on Saturday.

Firefighters believe a recycling bin at the rear of the houses was set alight, with the flames spreading to the homes leaving one property completely gutted and damaging another.

Two vehicles parked outside were also extensively damaged.

A 40-year-old man living in the house that was destroyed escaped unharmed. A family with children were in the other house and also escaped uninjured.

Everybody in the community here they all stick together and got everybody out, they knew how serious [it was], how quick it was spreading.

– William Lee, neighbour and eyewitness

William Lee, a neighbour, saw the fire erupt and described the scene.

“It was about 1.30pm and I was out the back and I seen this smoke and I went over, I saw a small fire and I turned and went over to a neighbour, the next minute it just ignited further and further so I phoned the fire brigade straight away,” he told UTV.

“It took them 25 minutes to get here. Whenever I phoned it was only a small fire just creeping up over the fence and within that time, just literally minutes it was all up in smoke.

“[The man] was in the house so I started phoning neighbours and getting people out. There were vehicles there, one went on fire straight away. The next door neighbours have four kids so we got them out to the front of the house as quickly as possible, there is a wee woman actually is bed bound a couple of doors down, we got her out. We had to smash her back door and get her out of bed.”

He added: “It was scary how quick it actually took off, from me turning my back on a wee small fire to the petrol tank igniting and it went up.”

On Sunday Mr Lee helped his neighbour try and salvage what he could of his possessions but said he was devastated.

“Shock, especially that they think it might be arson, that somebody might have done this, for a quiet area like this here, it’s shocking,” he commented.

Detectives are working to establish a motive and are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to get in touch on 101, quoting reference 675 13/04/19.