Revealed: brave battle to save Bridge House
AN army of more than 30 fire fighters battled the blaze that was almost completely destroyed Kilkenny’s historic Bridge House. And the survival of what remains of one of the city’s best loved buildings is largely thanks to their heroic efforts. The alarm was raised on the morning of Wednesday, October 10, shortly after the fire was spotted by a member of the public on the Lower John Street building. At 9.35am an emergency call was received by the ERCC (East Regional Control Centre) in Dublin at 9.35am. Local fire units immediately rushed to the scene of the blaze.
Units from Kilkenny city were soon joined by fire tender from Freshford, Callan and Castlecomer. The 30-plus fire fighters were armed with five pump appliances, an aerial platform, a water carrier and control unit as they battled to prevent the inferno from spreading. Meanwhile, gardai at the scene closed off John Street to traffic as the city centre was engulfed by huge plumes of thick black smoke.
Large numbers of people gathered at the bridge close to the cordoned-off area as the dramatic rescue operation swung into action. At this stage there were fears that falling debris It subsequently emerged that the fire was started maliciously, and that a quick-thinking local Garda saved the lives of two people, a man and a woman, who were asleep inside the building. Later that day two suspects were arrested in connection with the blaze. They were subsequently released from custody, and a file on the matter is now being prepared for the DPP. Efforts to save what remains of Bridge House, one of the city’s oldest architectural gems, are now focused on erecting a “watertight cap” on the listed building as the winter weather sets in.
At a meeting of Kilkenny County Council the Monday after the fire broke out, Cllr David Fitzgerald said a 17th century ceiling in the bulding remains “largely intact”. But he warned it will be lost “if we don’t get a watertight cap on it”. Bridge House is owned by the Neville Hotels group. However, Kilkenny County Council has served a statutory notice to the owners and taken possession of the site.
Under the provisions of the Local Government (Sanitary Services) Act 1974, the local authority has the power to enter the site and make it safe where it presents a danger to the people’s safety.