Investigation into Riverside fire to get under way as businesses bounce back

Gardaí were yesterday awaiting confirmation that the buildings destroyed in a fire at Riverside Commercial Estate on Saturday night are safe enough to allow a technical examination to get under way. Four premises were gutted in the blaze, which was the biggest fire in Galway since the Farah factory fire of 1986.

Westlink Car Sales, Black Dragon Kickboxing, Galway Liquidation Centre, and the Celtic Futon Store were destroyed in the fire which broke out at the commercial park shortly after 7pm and continued into the early hours of Sunday. Firefighters from Galway, Tuam, Athenry, Loughrea, and Ennis fought the blaze for several hours and were still damping down the smouldering remains of the buildings on Sunday morning. Four other premises in the block of units — Cara Office Supplies, Tommy Varden, Cases Wine Warehouse, and Cuniffe Electrical — sustained smoke damage in the fire.

However despite losing premises, stock, paperwork, and everything else needed to run a business, the owners of the affected companies have bounced back thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, with at least two of the companies affected already open for business in new premises.

Helen O’Flaherty of the Celtic Futon Store said the company opened in a new premises yesterday (Tuesday ), complete with a new sewing machine and fabrics donated following an appeal on Galway Bay FM’s Keith Finnegan Show on Monday.

“By 6pm Monday evening we had a key for a new premises in Liosban, with fabric and a sewing machine,” Ms O’Flaherty told the Galway Advertiser. “There are so many nice people in Galway, it’s unbelievable. People I didn’t even know called with the most amazing things.”

The company, which comprises the Celtic Futon Store and beanbag shop, and Celtic Blinds, is now open for business at the former White House premises in Liosban.

Westlink Car Sales, meanwhile, has reopened in a new showroom opposite the charred remains of its premises, beside Kevin Burke Tyres in Riverside Commercial Estate.

“The premises was totally destroyed,” said Paul Harwood, sales manager with the company. Thirty three cars, mostly BMW, Lexus, and Audi models, worth an estimated €500,000 were also destroyed in the blaze. Many of these vehicles had already been sold, and Mr Harwood said the new owners have been very understanding. “Customers have been very good, giving me a few days to replace cars,” he said. “I’m very thankful to customers for their patience. I really appreciate that.

“For security reasons I would have put my most expensive stock in there,” he added. “The room is fallen in on the cars and you wouldn’t even recognise them.

“You have to keep going and you have to bounce back quickly. We’re basically starting from scratch again. Everyone has been a great help.”

Peter Foley of Black Dragon Kickboxing, who was in the Black Box watching his fighters battle for a number of world titles on Saturday night when his gym burnt down, said he plans to reopen shortly and has received a number of offers of help, including offers of new premises.

“We haven’t even got a skipping rope,” he said yesterday. “We had the best and biggest kickboxing gym in the whole of Ireland. We had it all and now we have nothing.”

Mr Foley said he had received offers of help from throughout Ireland and the UK, and as far away as France and the US, in recent days.

“Any help from anybody is great,” he said. “I’m thankful for gestures of goodwill.”

Black Dragon Kickboxing was a state of the art 5,000sq ft gym which catered for a large number of fighters. Despite losing everything in the blaze, Mr Foley was confident the company would be back on its feet within weeks.

“We will be back on track in a few weeks I’m sure,” he said. “There are people far worse off than we are. We will get back on track ourselves anyway, that’s the kind of people we are.”

Mr Foley said that training programmes which are in place will go ahead shortly and moved to reassure people who had signed up for the programmes that they will take place shortly. “They’re just sidetracked for a week or two,” he added.

Several Black Dragon kickboxers won their fights at the Worlds Collide event on Saturday evening, including Nicola Collins who retained her world title and Cathal Manning, who defeated world champion Joseph Corneroli.


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