Chief's Blog

NI Fire & Rescue Service

Primark Fire – Thank You

Primark Fire – Thank You

Category: Uncategorised    Date: 21st September 2018       

At 11am on Tuesday 28 August 2018, we received a call to a fire on the top floor of the Primark building (Bank Buildings) – a 5-storey commercial property in the Castle Street area of Belfast.  The fire caused extensive damage to the iconic building and a 45 meter exclusion zone was put in place due to risk of the building collapsing.

This was a very complex and protracted incident and we worked closely with partner agencies to bring the incident to a conclusion and protect the safety of the public and our Firefighters.  We handed the scene over to Primark on Friday 31 August at 6pm. The investigation into the cause of the fire in conjunction with Northern Ireland Health & Safety Executive is ongoing. 14 businesses remain closed within the cordoned area which is likely to remain in place for some time.

In the new ‘Your Belfast’ marketing campaign, to help entice people back into the city centre following the Primark fire, our Eastern Area Commander, Aidan Jennings, delivers one simple yet poignant line ‘We Are Strong’.

As the initial 999 call was received by our Regional Control Centre and the subsequent 3 days that followed, as an emergency service and an organisation, we showed just how strong and tenacious we really are as we responded to one of the biggest and most complex building fires in recent years.

Almost one month on from this incident I think it’s important we take time to say thank you to each and every one of those people who took time out of their daily lives to acknowledge and recognise our efforts. I am dedicating this blog to saying ‘Thank You’ to each and every person who helped us along the way.

Key to helping sustain the delivery of such an intense and challenging operation over a number of days was the support from partner agencies, the business community and in particular members of the public, both young and old, who went above and beyond in showing their appreciation for the work that we did in partially saving one of Belfast’s and indeed NI’s most iconic buildings.

From the countless sandwiches and cups of tea to the wave of public support and encouragement on social media and across local, national and international media, to the reassuring pats on the back and the kind-hearted comments, these simple yet significant gestures helped spurn us on during what was one of the most demanding and protracted incidents in recent years.

Over 100 Firefighters, 14 Fire Appliances, including a High Volume Pump, 3 Aerial Appliances and 2 Command Support Units were involved in tackling the blaze at the height of the incident. Coupled with this were scores of people working and supporting this huge operation behind the scenes within our Regional Control Centre, Operations Support, Transport Department and Corporate Communications Department. We worked with our colleagues across other emergency services, government and public sector bodies as well as the business community and voluntary sector to bring the incident to a conclusion and protect the safety of the public and our Firefighters. Primark staff must also be commended for their swift action in evacuating the building prior to the arrival of Firefighters. Their actions undoubtedly helped save lives enabling the first responding crews to focus on dealing with the developing blaze.


Photo by Kevin Scott







Photo by Liam McBurney PA

The sheer size, scope and intensity of the flames were absolutely incredible. We can all vividly recall that iconic image of the clock in Bank Buildings burning – time stood still – yet Firefighters quickly manoeuvred around the iconic building rapidly creating a fire break. That key tactical decision, made by the Officer in Charge of the incident that day, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Michael Graham, was crucial in helping save the newly refurbished part of the building. Working in extra ordinary and challenging circumstances Firefighters protected this area and are to be highly commended for their diligent efforts in preventing the fire in spreading and the refurbished rear extension of the building and adjacent properties were saved.

Inevitably the fire at Bank Buildings will be noted in the history books as one as the biggest building fires in Belfast in recent years which struck at the heart of Belfast and the heart of its people. As Chief Fire & Rescue Officer I will remember this incident for the expertise, resilience and dedication of Firefighters and staff right across NIFRS as well as the outpouring of kindness, generosity and public – spiritedness which underpinned and helped reinforce our operational response to this incident. As ever the resilience of the people of Belfast was matched by the action and support they offered. Thank you – together we are strong and together we will remain strong.

Top photo: Hugh Russell


Photo by Pacemaker




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