Fire inquiry delayed by safety fears

SAFETY fears could delay by months a full investigation into a fire at a derelict recycling plant in Lismore, said gardaí yesterday.

Calls were made, meanwhile, for a public inquiry into the background to the blaze.

With smoke continuing to emerge yesterday from the site of the fire, which broke out late on Sunday night, residents of an evacuated housing estate in the Co Waterford town returned to their homes after being assured there was no risk to their health.

About 50 evacuees spent Monday night with family members or in a local hotel after concern grew during the day about environmental contamination.

The fire has already had an effect on the local tourism industry, with one B&B reporting two cancellations within hours of the incident.

Air quality tests carried out for Waterford County Council yielded no sign of any asbestos after fears that the fire may have released particles of the cancer-causing material into the atmosphere.

However, residents have been advised to keep their windows and doors closed, as a precaution, for as long as smoke continues billowing from the site of the fire at Mayfield Road on the edge of Lismore.

Gardaí confirmed yesterday they are still treating the fire as “suspicious” — particularly following a smaller fire last week which caused minimal damage.

Investigators have been carrying out door-to-door inquiries, but Inspector Paul Heffernan said a full examination of the former recycling building itself isn’t possible until it’s declared safe. “It could be weeks or even months before we can visit the site.”

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Lismore have called on Environment Minister John Gormley to instigate a public inquiry into how the situation was allowed to develop. They also want Waterford County Council to decontaminate the area as soon as possible, and for short-term and long-term tracking of the health of people who may have been affected by the fire.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Bernard Leddy said: “This was an accident waiting to happen and, hey presto, it did.”

The fire services have remained on site because of the smouldering material.

B&B owner Marie Howard said yesterday that they had lost two cancellations — including one family due to stay five nights — on Monday. She was keen to reassure people due to visit Lismore that it’s safe to do so. “The tests were all clean and confidence needs to be restored to the public,” she said.

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