Waste oil site third attack

Waste oil site third attack

6 October 2021

A WASTE oil plant at an industrial estate on the outskirts of Downpatrick has been targeted by arsonists for the third time in a year.

Extensive damage was caused to Macwaste’s plant at the Brannish Road last Thursday evening with its owners warning the latest attack raises concerns for all businesses and future investment not only at this part of the town, but wider Downpatrick area.

The alarm was raised shortly before 6pm with firefighters from Downpatrick and Belfast responding to the emergency call. 

Crews manning four fire tenders used a combination of water and foam to tackle the malicious blaze, which is believed to have started in a shed. The area was finally declared safe almost three hours later.

Those who started the fire are being blamed for placing the lives of people who live nearby at risk, with one local politician saying it was a “miracle” no one was harmed as the result of the “reckless behaviour” of those responsible.

A huge plume of black smoke billowed into the sky when fire crews arrived, with suggestions that the owners of the waste oil plant have been left with a hefty repair bill following yet another arson attack.

The Fire and Rescue Service has confirmed that the cause of last week’s blaze is believed to have been “deliberate ignition” while the Recorder understands those responsible for starting the blaze have been captured on CCTV.

Macwaste says it is “is shocked” at what happened at its plant and condemns the arson attack.  The Brannish Road site was targeted in October last year and again this April.

“This attack raises serious concerns for all businesses and future investment in the industrial estate and Downpatrick in general,” said a company spokesman.

“The premises were fully secured and locked up at 5pm at the end of the working day last Thursday, but were targeted by arsonists at 6pm, resulting in extensive damage to the main building.”

The spokesman said Macwaste was aware of several recent incidents at the industrial estate and had stepped up security at its premises.

“A number of youths have been caught on CCTV and, hopefully, the police will be able to identify all the culprits with a view to prosecution,” the spokesman added.

Downpatrick councillor Oonagh Hanlon expressed concern that the incident came on the heels of a recent attack on 14 cars in the same area of the town.

She said that, given the highly flammable material stored at the Macwaste site, it was a “miracle” that no one was seriously injured and praised firefighters for their swift response after the alarm was raised.

“It is extremely frustrating that the emergency services are being distracted away from what could be more serious incidents and emergencies. This follows on from reports of petrol bombs being thrown at cars passing through this part of Downpatrick last week,” she said.

“It is hugely disappointing and frustrating that this type of behaviour continues in this area. Do the perpetrators of these crimes realise the impact of their reckless actions?”

Cllr Hanlon confirmed that she raised the most recent fire at the Macwaste plant and the ongoing anti-social behaviour at the Killough Road area during a meeting of the district’s Policing and Community Safety Partnership.

“I spoke with senior police and have been assured that there will be an increase in patrols at this part of the town. We are working hard locally to attract investment to help revitalise  Downpatrick which has much to offer. A small minority cannot hold the town to ransom with their reckless behaviour,” she declared.

Cllr Hanlon appealed to those in the community to continue reporting suspicious behaviour as people are fed up with the actions of a small minority. 

She added: “Their actions are not reflective of the wider community at this part of Downpatrick.”

Police investigating the arson attack have issued an appeal for information and are keen to hear from anyone who can assist them with their enquiries.

In particular, they want to hear from people who may have noticed suspicious activity in the Brannish Road area last Thursday evening.

Anyone who believes they may be able to assist police is asked to contact them using the non-emergency 101 number quoting reference 2098 of 29/09/21. Information can also be relayed to police via http://www.psni.police.uk/makeareport/or.

Information can also be passed anonymously using the confidential Crimestoppers number 0800 555111 or via  http://crimestoppers-uk.org/