Third officer with Cork City Fire Brigade, Victor Shine, credited the design of the quayside Camden Wharf building, and the materials used in its construction, for containing the substantial blaze which completely gutted its ground floor restaurant yesterday.
“Without doubt, its compartmentalised design, its engineering, the modern materials which meet modern fire safety standards, and the installation of alarms, prevented a fatality,” said Mr Shine.
Several of the four, five and six-storey Camden Quay apartment block’s 100-or-so residents who were evacuated early yesterday morning now face an uncertain future after the residential areas suffered severe and extensive smoke damage.
The alarm was raised at 5.19am after fire broke out in the N-Square Steakhouse and Seafood restaurant on the complex’s ground floor.
Six units of the city fire brigade rushed to the scene.
The blaze ripped through the restaurant and was well alight when they arrived, with flames shooting up to 30-ft from the front and side of the restaurant.
Thick plumes of dense black smoke billowed from the building, drastically reducing visibility along the city’s northern quays as far east as Merchant’s Quay.
Gardaí closed several roads in the area and diversions were put in place as up to 30 firefighters wearing breathing apparatus began tackling the blaze.
Mr Shine ordered a full evacuation of the overhead apartments as the potentially deadly smoke began to log in the upper residential areas.
Firefighters escorted up to 100 residents from their apartments to a safe zone a short distance away on the quayside.
They also had to conduct several forced entries on certain apartments to ensure that they were empty.
Mr Shine said the evacuation was executed in a safe and orderly manner and despite the intense smoke, there were no injuries.
Several explosions rocked the ground and first floor as the intense heat from the fire in the restaurant ruptured a number of pressurised containers which were in storage areas.
But Mr Shine said firefighters were a safe distance away and no one was injured.
Camille Catcha-Picard, who was among those evacuated, said she felt the building shake as the explosions erupted.
“First we were wondering what was going on; we could hear glass shattering, then when we looked outside we could see the smoke, and it was on the stairs. We could feel the building shake as the explosions went off,” she said.
She was waiting for clearance yesterday to re-enter the building and inspect the damage to her apartment, and for advice from the building’s management company on when, or if, she can move back in.
Firefighters brought the complex blaze under control within an hour but two units of the fire brigade remained on scene for several hours to dampen down the building.
One lane of Camden Quay was reopened to traffic before the morning rush-hour.
Once the fire brigade was satisfied the blaze was out and they had cleared the ground-floor building for inspection, it was handed over to gardaí who conducted a detailed forensic and technical examination.
Supt Mick Comyns said preliminary investigations suggest the fire started accidentally in the restaurant area. Investigators are focusing on the possibility kitchen equipment may have been to blame.