A Cookstown resident who lives ‘over the hedge’ from Cookstown Leisure Centre said she was terrified for her home when a fire broke out in the biomass heating system.
The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, said she called the leisure centre to tell them smoke was coming from the biomass system over two hours before the Fire Service was called.
A spokesperson for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said they got the call about the blaze - which saw the centre evacuated - at 5.43pm.
Fire fighters then worked on the fire until 11.24pm on Wednesday night (November 2).
The Rocheville resident, whose home backs on to the biomass system, said she first notified the leisure centre of her concerns around 3pm and again at 5.30pm.
“I called the leisure centre at 3pm,” she said. “I was outside and I noticed the smoke up there.
“I thought the smoke very thick. I waited a few minutes and I was talking to the receptionist. I said ‘can you just pass this on’ and left it at that.”
After seeing the smoke die down a little just before 4pm, the concerned resident said she then “heard a loud bang” and looked out at the biomass system again, where she saw “the smoke was getting worse and worse.”
After that she said flames had also started to rise from the machine.
“I will never forget those flames,” she added. “I was really getting scared.
“There’s only a hedge between me and that thing, and the flames got higher.”
The woman said she felt the leisure centre should have called in the Fire Service a lot sooner considering the biomass system’s close proximity to homes.
“These houses are just over the hedge from it,” she added. “They let it go too long.”
A spokesperson for Mid Ulster District Council, which runs the leisure centre, said: “Maintenance staff were aware of some smoke in the chamber of the heating system from early afternoon yesterday (Wednesday) and, as this occurs from time-to-time, were monitoring the situation.
“When, by 5.30pm, it became clear that the smoke was not dissipating, staff called the Fire Service and the centre was evacuated.”