THE father of a one year-old boy who was among 13 people rescued from a house fire in Derry has said they now plan to leave their home.

Baby James Meenan (pictured) was dramatically rescued by firefighters from the first floor window of the flats in the early hours of Friday morning after a fire was set in the communal stairway in the building.

The fire resulted from a mat being set alight and then wrapped around a banister in the building, causing black smoke to billow through the property.

The occupants were woken from their sleep by a smoke alarm, but so thick was the smoke that escape through the front door was impossible, with the residents trapped inside their flats as the flames grew in intensity.

A number of crews from the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) arrived on the scene shortly after 6am and managed to get the ground floor residents to safety out their windows, while ladders were needed to rescue those living on the first floor, including baby James, and his parents Michelle and Richard Meenan.

Speaking to the Derry News, his father Richard said they no longer feel safe at the flats, and now hope to leave the property at the earliest opportunity.

“It was about 6am and my girlfriend got up with James, and she could hear an alarm going off, but she didn’t pay much attention to it as alarms have gone off before in there,” he said.

“But then she smelled the smoke and we got out clothes on, but when we opened the door the smoke was so thick that we had to shut it again.

“We were trapped, so all we could do was put we cloths over our mouths.”

The Fire Service then arrived and rescued the family from the house, where James handed his young son out the window to firefighter.

He added that they now intend to leave the property.

“It was very scary, especially with the baby,” he said.

“This is the latest in a few incidents here, and as long as we’re here, we won’t feel safe. The lock doesn’t work on the main door, so that doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence either.

“But what really scares me that whoever started the fire did so in the knowledge that there were people living here, and could have died as a result.”

Meanwhile Richard’s neighbour, Lawrence Cooke, described how he hung precariously from the window of his first floor flat to raise the alarm with those living below him.

“My alarm started going at around six in the morning, and I opened the door to go across to James, but there was just too much smoke to go outside,” he said.

“I didn’t know if the fella who lives downstairs from me was awake, because the smoke was rising upwards, so I crawled out the window and hung down so I could bang on his window.”

Lawrence also echoed James’ fears about those responsible for lighting the fire.

“The security buzzer on the door has never worked, so it wouldn’t have been too hard for whoevet did this to get in here,” he said.

“The people who did this were happy that people could have died, because if they weren’t, then they wouldn’t have started the fire.”

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