Heartbreak after farm fire

Hugh McCloskey at the burnt out barn in Greysteel which was extensively damaged in a fire in the early hours of Saturday morning.  (2102JB47)

Hugh McCloskey at the burnt out barn in Greysteel which was extensively damaged in a fire in the early hours of Saturday morning. (2102JB47)

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A Greysteel farmer has spoken of his heartbreak after a fire ripped through one of his sheds, causing substantial damage and destroying hundreds of pounds worth of livestock feed.

A passer by on the Clooney Road early on Friday morning, just before 3am, spied the huge blaze at the back of Hugh McNicholl’s yard.

A PSNI officer stands guard as Fire Service crews mop up after an overnight fire at barns in a farm on the outskirts of Greysteel on Thursday night last. 2102JM01

A PSNI officer stands guard as Fire Service crews mop up after an overnight fire at barns in a farm on the outskirts of Greysteel on Thursday night last. 2102JM01

“It was the people driving past who spotted it and they woke me and when I looked out I couldn’t believe it,” he told the ‘Journal’.

The fire in the shed, about 50m x 20m, destroyed 200 bales of hay. Machinery inside was saved, while livestock in an adjacent shed were moved to safety thanks to those on scene, including police.

“It’s a terrible mess,” said Mr. Nicholl on Friday morning. “It’s heartbreaking, devastating and very traumatising, but we were lucky no-one was hurt. You can always replace a shed but you can’t replace a human life.”

NI Fire and Rescue Service, Derry District Commander, Barry McDowell said crews from Derry, Limavady, Dungiven, Maghera and Coleraine battled the blaze, which was well alight when they arrived. He said officers worked tirelessly in what he described as difficult and dangerous conditions. Roughly 40-45 firefighters attended the scene, over the course of the seven-hour operation, with around 20 officers there at any one time.

“It was a large fire,” he explained, revealing fire officers had to act quickly to save machiney by using equipment to demolish a brick wall.

“It was an extensive operation and you try and do your best and we did,” he said.

As yet, the cause of the fire has not been established and, given it was the second large fire in the Roe Valley area inside a week, Group Commander McDowell urged people to be vigilant.

“I would appeal to everyone to make sure their premises are secure at night and to ensure they have adequate lighting and are fire safe,” he added. Mr. McNicholl thanked the NI Fire and Rescue Service and PSNI, as well as neighbours for their moral support.

Local Sinn Fein councillor Dermot Nicholl extended his sympathy to Mr. McNicholl, adding: “It’s a terrible thing to have happened, but thankfully no one was hurt.”