The Gocean lodge in Killyleagh once part of the Gocean estate has been badly damage due to a fire last night (Wednesday 1 November 2017).
There is speculation that this was another act of arson in the community already hit by a string of fire attacks in recent years.
At around 5pm that evening, a small fire started close to the entrance of the Gocean building near the bridge on Cross Street in Killyleagh. It was reported to the NI Fire and Rescue Service but by the time a fire tender arrived it has begun to die back. It was causing a danger to traffic with smoke on the main busy road at the peak time as people were heading home from work.
Then just after this around 6.30pm, the empty Gocean building went up in flames and was gutted in the fire.
Local politicians have soundly condemned this possible act of arson. Councillor Billy Walker said: “There has been some unrest over the past couple of nights and fires were lit in Killyleagh, one on the Downpatrick Road.
“Anyone with knowledge or information about this fire at the Gocean house must contact the police. It looks very much like arson but we will have to wait and see what the investigation comes up with. This is costing a lot of time and effort from the police and fire services and could draw them away from another areas where there is an incident.
“My greatest fear is that someone will get trapped in a building and get burned alive. Eventually this could well happen. To date we have see a pigeon shed burned, the public toilets destroyed, a local bar badly damaged, the Manse burned out, a house ruined on the Kerry estate, the former British Legion building also badly damaged by fire, and now the Gocean building burned out.
“This is all indicative of very sinister and disturbed behaviour and it must stop… or be stopped. Whoever is doing this needs to be put in the courts and face a prison sentence. Too much has happened in recent years and I would like to see the good people of Killyleagh finally put and end to this. Hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage has been caused.
“Someone must know who is doing it. It has to stop now or I fear the consequences. The last thing we need are tragic victims burned alive, dying with smoke inhalation, or suffering severe burns and scared for life.”
Rowallene Councillor Terry Andrews said: “If this was another arson attack then it is completely out of order and I totally condemn it. There was a lot of history around the Gocean building and it was an important part of the built heritage of Killyleagh.
“If it was an arson, those persons who committed this need to be ashamed of themselves. They need to stop this behaviour before someone is killed or severely injured. This could all end up in tragedy yet and some family could be morning the lose of a family member.
“No-one wants this to happen so I urge anyone who knows who is doing this to contact the police on 101 or the confidential telephone line or Crimestoppers before it’s too late.
“Parents must be asking the important question: do they know where their children are tonight? They should be checking if there is a smell of smoke on their clothes before there is a knock on their door and someone is bringing sad tidings.”