Mayor praises professionalism of staff after fire

THE Mayor of Ballymoney, Councillor Bill Kennedy, has heaped praise on staff at the Joey Dunlop Leisure Centre for their efficiency in securing the safety of the public following Tuesday night's fire.

Councillor Kennedy described the actions of the staff as "thoroughly professional" at a time when people would have been genuinely scared.

He told the Times: "Inside a very short space of time staff had everyone outside, counted for and ensured that blankets were made available to keep them warm.

"I understand that some members also stayed overnight to make sure there was no recurrence of the fire. The dedication and thoroughness of the staff, customer care and looking after people is to be highly commended."

The Centre remained closed on Wednesday, but was re-opened on Thursday morning after management and staff were satisfied that the situation was back to normal.

The outbreak started in the Sauna Cabin which is part of the Health Suite around 5 p.m. on Tuesday last.

The emergency services were alerted and the Centre was evacuated and remained closed throughout the following day. According to Fire Station Commander for the Coleraine district, Mr. Charlie McAuley, it took an hour to extinguish the fire.

The building was handed back to the Council by the emergency services around 9.00 pm the following day.

A statement from the Borough Council said: "The Health Suite area i.e. sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, which was extensively damaged, remains closed, until further notice, while the remainder of the Leisure Centre opened on Thursday 20th January at 8.00am."

Councillor Kennedy assured the public that the Sauna would not be re-opened until all safety measures and repairs had been carried out.

Five fire tenders - two from Balluymoney, two from Coleraine and another from Londonderry - and police officers atteneded the scene and the actions of fire personnel in dealing quickly with the outbreak also brought praise from the Mayor.

He said: "Where the fire started was not easy to find, but officers moved quickly and efficiently. They too deserve praise."

While at the Centre, another fire was reported at Main Street near to Taggarts. It is understood that the building was formerly used as a garage and according to the Mayor it was a blessing that so many fire tenders were in the town.

"Given the fact that this fire in Main Street could have quickly spread to other buildings it was good that fire personnel were able to react quickly and get the blaze under control," the Mayor said.

Police say this fire was started deliberately.