FIRE CREWS in Strabane have extinguished a massive blaze believed to have started after a business was struck by lightning.
O'Doherty's Coffin manufacturers went up in flames yesterday evening, with multiple reports indicating the blaze may have started after the building was struck by lightning.
Videos and images of the fire flooded social media, with some clips taken from miles away showing the sheer size and scale of the blaze as thick, dark smoke billowed into the sky.
Sinn Féin MLA Martina Anderson shared one such clip, writing: "Struck by lightning! Strabane town centre".
Struck by lighting!
Strabane Town Centre https://t.co/GMqPK6qItV
— Martina Anderson Sinn Féin (@M_AndersonSF) July 4, 2021
The border town is situated in County Tyrone and on the border with County Donegal in the Republic, and the town's main road was closed as firefighters tackled the blaze.
A statement from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) urged the public "that due to a fire on Railway Street in Strabane, they should avoid the area to allow emergency services to deal with the blaze."
"Our officers are at the scene, please follow their directions."
Doherty’s coffin maker business struck by lightning in Strabane. pic.twitter.com/n6kqHsz9Kl
— Raymond McCarron Daydreamer (@workingsux) July 4, 2021
A yellow weather warning was in place at the time the blaze began, with the Met warning of a potential for lightning strikes.
An estimated 80 firefighters, 10 fire engines and four special appliances were at the scene to tackle the fire, and while the operation has been scaled back, crews are still at the scene and Railway Street remains closed, BBC News reports.
The Coffin makers, run by the O'Doherty family for 113 years, has been totally destroyed, with the family "devastated", West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan told the outlet.
Sincere thanks to all the firefighters still here many hours after the fire started in Strabane. My thoughts this evening are with the O’Doherty family. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/WezfpDDh9J
— Órfhlaith Begley MP (@OrfhlaithBegley) July 4, 2021
"I cannot get out of my mind today the impact this has had on this family and on the community. It hits very hard for people, this is one of the oldest longest surviving businesses in this town."
An investigation into the cause of the fire has been launched, with firefighters accepting a lightning strike as one possible cause of the blaze.