Fire service shows their worth again - Car park blaze

Fire service shows their worth again - Car park blaze

It is always unwise and dangerous to exaggerate the threat posed by an accident or a fire.

Equally, it is always foolish, and dangerous, too, to underestimate, to disrespect, the lethal capacity of a runaway fire breaking out in a busy public space.

A little over two years ago, 72 people died when London’s Grenfell Towers became an inferno, because highly flammable building materials were inappropriately used.

That catastrophe led to a series of reviews that found that many buildings across Britain were equally vulnerable. Building standards, and expectations, have been amended accordingly. What an expensive lesson, what a chastening example of profit superseding human safety.

It is almost 40 years since 48 people died in the 1981 Stardust nightclub tragedy in Dublin. The relatives of those lost are still fighting to reach a conclusion that seems credible.

Four decades have almost passed, but the uncertainty, the not knowing, still gnaws.

That tragedy is deepened by the reality that it now seems more than unlikely that any further clarity will be brought to that situation.

Both of these showed what can go wrong when a fire gets out of control.

Thankfully, in the context of Saturday’s huge fire at a multi-storey carpark in Cork City suburb Douglas, they can only be a cause for relief — relief that what might have been was not.

There was no loss of life, no serious injury. However, Grenfell and the Stardust are still pertinent — they show what could have happened, what might have gone wrong, had emergency services not been so alert and immediately effective.

There may be questions about whether water sprinklers are mandatory in high-rise car parks, or about shopping centre access points for fire brigades, but the overriding response must be one of relief. Had shoppers, no matter how few, been trapped, the consequences hardly bear thinking about.

That they were not might have been down to fate, but other factors must have played a part, too.

Video footage released by Cork City Fire Brigade yesterday, showing a row of about 60 cars, turned more or less to ash, is sobering.

The footage also shows badly warped concrete floors, which, in the most graphic way, revealed the intensity of the fire.

That video confirms that anyone unfortunate enough to have been caught in the fire would not have survived. It also shows how very important it was that the fire was so quickly controlled. Once again, the people of Cork are indebted to fire service personnel, who showed themselves more than equal to the potentially life-threatening challenge that faced them.

Take a bow, Cork Fire Brigade, and know your efforts are appreciated by the community you protect.

Now the threat has passed, other issues, especially the plight of businesses in the village, must be addressed. Might there just be a silver lining to this cloud?

Might some businesses closed by the fire transfer to empty city centre premises and breathe new, pre-Christmas life into city streets?

The city council might consider initiatives to encourage this opportunity.

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