Gutted store manager vows to bounce back after blaze

The manager of the Poundstretcher store in Londonderry has vowed that the company bounce back bigger and better after an overnight fire gutted the building on Thursday, July 16.

Store manager John Hamill was speaking as he joined some of the visibly upset staff who arrive to find the large three storey building on Bishop Street destroyed internally following the overnight inferno.

Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Pic Steven McAuley/McAuley Multimedia

Over 50 fire-fighters worked through the night to prevent the blaze spreading to adjoining businesses.

Mr Hamill said that all 15 staff members at the store would keep their jobs in the long term.

He described how he was called to the scene at 1.25am and arrived within minutes to find “smoke billowing from top windows”.

He added that there was “not a lot of fire in sight, but throughout the night the fire took hold of the building and engulfed the whole building from top to bottom.

“We were evacuated down to Lower Shipquay Street. Unfortunately the fire couldn’t be contained due to the stick levels we have in store, bedding, households, all that.

“The Fire Service did their best and credit to them from staff and management, They did a fantastic job to minimise the damage.

“We currently employ 15 people in store. My regional manager and our area managers have already been on to head office about getting this site fixed.

“Poundstretchers own the building so they will redevelop the building as soon as, and I don’t mean six months.”

Adding that while there may be some temporary impact on workers in terms of hours, “jobs will be safe in the long run.”

“And when we do redevelop we will go bigger and stronger,” he added.

“Negative is we lost the store; positive is we are going to go bigger and better.”

Fire & Rescue Service Group Commander Colm McGuigan said: “The first fire crew was here just before 1.30am. Actually when the first crew arrived it wasn’t very evident what was on fire because the fire was developing behind roller shutters and it wasn’t until we opened up the roller shutters that we were able to see exactly what we faced.

“It’s a three storey building, and with the contents of the building is all very combustible stuff. And in fact there was 100 gas cylinders. All of them exploded over a period of two hours. Needless to say that hampered our fire-fighting efforts. It also fuelled the fire.”

He added: “At the height of the fire we had 53 fire-fighters in action.”