Northern Ireland

Castlewellan: Three homes badly damaged in fire

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Media captionIt's understood that children's Christmas presents in one of the houses were destroyed by the fire

A house has been destroyed and two others badly damaged in a fire in Castlewellan in County Down.

No-one was hurt in the blaze at Mill Hill in the town that was reported at about 04:30 GMT on Saturday.

It started in a rented property and spread to two neighbouring family homes.

The rented house was destroyed and the two others were damaged. A family escaped from one of the houses after being alerted by a neighbour.

It is understood they lost a number of possessions, including Christmas presents for their children.

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Image caption The fire service said it believed the fire had started accidentally

Thirty-five firefighters and seven appliances tackled the blaze.

The fire is believed to have started accidentally.

"On arrival, the first crew found a well-developed fire in a first floor bedroom," fire service group commander Victor Spence said.

"The occupier had already left the premises and we started to evacuate adjoining houses to prevent any casualties.

"The fire was contained to the house and we believe the fire to be caused accidentally due to smoking materials."

Council officials are cordoning off the properties because they may be structurally unsafe.

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