A devastating fire ripped through Cahir Day Care Centre in the early hours of Tuesday morning - leaving the town and the surrounding area in shock.
The fire began in an outside shed just before 3am and caused extensive damage to the kitchen and toilet area of the centre - meaning it has closed to all clients for the foreseeable future.
Speaking to The Nationalist from the scene on Tuesday morning, chairperson of the Day Care Centre, Peggy O’Brien, said it was “simply awful.”
“It’s terrible, but we just have to get on with it now,” said Peggy who has been involved with the committee since it was first set up to open a centre for the elderly people of the area.
Peggy and her fellow committee members spent Tuesday morning ringing the centre’s clients to tell them all activities and meals have been cancelled until further notice.
Thankfully the structural damage to the centre has been confined to the kitchen and toilet area, however it will result in the centre’s closure for at least several weeks.
It is thought the fire began in a small, wooden shed at the back of the building. The fire spread to two gas canisters , which did not explode because they were connected to cooking equipment. However the fire then spread to an oil tank between the shed and the kitchen area, which ruptured and caused the blaze to spread to the kitchen area.
The fire caused windows to shatter and damage to the roof, as can be seen in our photograph of the building. The timber shed and the oil tank have been completely destroyed.
The alarm was raised just before 3am on Tuesday morning when units of the Fire Service from Cahir and Cashel stations were called to the scene. The fire was brought under control and the scene deemed safe in about three hours. Following the departure of the Fire Service the scene of the blaze was cordoned off by the gardai while the ashes were examined by garda scene of crime technical experts, in search of a possible ‘hot spot’ or cause of the fire. According to gardai there was no early indication that the fire had been caused intentionally.
Christine Ryan is the chef at the centre and she said she couldn’t believe the sight that greeted her as she arrived for work on Tuesday morning. “I couldn’t believe it when I came around the corner and saw it. It’s such a shame. The people depend on this centre for a meal every day and activities, it provides so much for people from the surrounding areas. However long we are out of action will be too long.”
Up to 20 people a day look forward to a chat, a sing-song or some music at the centre.
Bobby Condon has also been a committee member at the centre since it first opened, seven years ago. He said he was “stunned and shocked” when he got a phone call from Peggy to say there had been a fire. He immediately went to the centre to see what had happened and he described the damage as “dreadful.”
“We are all shocked, the whole town is here, everyone is stunned and shocked,” he spoke as he looked across the damaged building.
Bobby said the “fabulous building” that housed the Day Care Centre was well organised and well run and it has great support in the local area. People passing to go to mass on Tuesday morning were stopping to sympathise with the committee members present.
Peggy O’Brien said that following alerting the centre’s clients about the fire the next job for the committee was to organise the boarding-up of the broken windows and liaising with the Centre’s insurers. The Centre is financially supported by the HSE and local fundraising and Peggy says they are ‘hoping for the best’ in terms of repairing the fire damage.
An emergency meeting of the Day Care Centre’s board was called for Tuesday night to discuss the situation. While the centre is not fit for use it may be possible to hold activities elsewhere, but it is too early to say at this stage.
Between 10 and 20 people avail of the services of the centre every day. Peggy says they have all been upset by the news of the fire.