Cork fire: St Kevin’s facility is ‘salvageable’, says HSE

The HSE has said an initial assessment of the St Kevin’s facility in Cork has found it to be “salvageable” while investigating gardaí hope to receive a forensic report on the cause of the fire there in the coming days.

Pic: Anne Marie Cronin

The blaze at the disused mental health facility has also prompted calls from around the country for security at other properties to be reviewed, while the HSE stressed that it had taken significant steps in recent years to limit trespassing at the listed property.

The HSE said an initial visual inspection by the structural engineer had taken place and, while limited to a visual inspection only as the fire service were still in attendance, it found that on initial assessment, “the building is salvageable”.

A HSE spokesperson said: “A recommendation to knock the building has not been made, however, in order to ensure a safe environment around the building the following works will be completed: Two dormer pediments in the section of the building damaged by fire will be marked and dismantled stone by stone, brick by brick, and brought to ground level. This will be stored for potential reinstatement.

“Loose slates, stones, and rainwater pipes in the section of the building damaged by fire will be taken down.

“Once it is safe and appropriate to do so, a more detailed inspection will then be completed.”

The HSE had installed a CCTV system on the perimeter of the site which was to be monitored on a 24/7 basis. It is also understood that 235 panel shutters had been installed to prevent unwanted access to windows and doors and that in addition to weekly inspections by the HSE’s maintenance department, vegetation in and around the building had also been cut back.

Gardaí involved in the investigation said CCTV footage, if and when it is available, will be reviewed alongside any other lines of inquiry, including the possibility of online content that may have emerged shortly after the fire broke out.

One senior officer involved in the investigation said yesterday that the forensic report should be available in the coming days and it should establish the seat of the fire and what caused it, with the expectation that it was started deliberately.

Gardaí also said they wished to hear from anyone in the community who may have information about any activity in the area last Tuesday evening or in connection with the fire.

It is understood that an external security firm had been contracted to provide twice daily security patrols and that the site also had static guards on site on high-risk nights such as bonfire nights.

Local politicians, including Fine Gael senator Colm Burke, had raised concerns about security at St Kevin’s prior to the fire and other elected representatives have now drawn attention to the possibility of similar incidents happening elsewhere.

The HSE said yesterday that the security and maintenance of properties were not centrally controlled and they were primarily the responsibility of local health areas.

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