Pregnant mum feared for life as youths set fire to stairwell

(Inset). Joseph Place resident Noel Maguire examines the fire damage to his exit door leading to his upstairs flat. 2004JM05
(Inset). Joseph Place resident Noel Maguire examines the fire damage to his exit door leading to his upstairs flat. 2004JM05

A furious Derry father has slammed youths who set alight a communal stairwell in Joseph Place in the Bogside earlier this week, endangering his pregnant girlfriend and the maisonettes’ other residents.

“Stop before someone gets killed”, was Noel Maguire’s message to those responsible for the blaze, which occurred around tea-time on Tuesday. Mr Maguire lives in an upper flat in Joseph Place with his six-months pregnant girlfriend and the communal ground-level stairwell in question is both the entrance and the exit for their home.

When leaving their home around 6.30pm on Tuesday, they were confronted by thick, acrid clouds of smoke in the hallway.

“We literally opened the door to a wall of smoke,” Mr Maguire told the ‘Journal’.

“We couldn’t get out - we had no other way to leave the building. My girlfriend is six months pregnant and has epilepsy. Obviously, she was panicking. She couldn’t even stay here that night and went to stay with a friend.”

Mr Maguire was especially thankful that his 7-year-old daughter, who lives with him part of the week, was not at home.

“It’s a constant battle with the young people hanging around here,” he said. “They’ve ripped off my back gate yet again and broken car windows outside. Now they set fire to this stairwell- it was so dangerous. These young people need to stop before someone gets killed.”

NI Fire and Rescue Service, police and ambulance services attended.

“It was more the smoke that rendered us powerless - we literally couldn’t get out,” Mr Maguire said. “I’m just glad my daughter wasn’t here or things could have been so much worse.”

Police confirmed reports of the fire at approximately 6.32pm on Tuesday. Sinn Féin Northlands Councillor Maeve McLaughlin said: “We can’t underestimate the seriousness of this situation. If a fire takes hold at these flats and the escape route is blocked there could serious injuries or loss of life,” she said.