A Derry woman has praised those who helped rescued her from her burning home earlier this week.
Gemma McDaid had just left her bedroom minutes before an accidental fire engulfed the room of her bungalow in Iniscarn Court, in Creggan, on Monday night.
Ms. McDaid said her neighbour had seen the smoke and flashed down a passing motorist. The driver of the car then ran into the bungalow and brought Ms. McDaid out, while his wife ran to alert relatives in the Rinmore area.
Ms. McDaid, who is in her 70s, said the full impact of what had happened only hit her on Wednesday after the shock had worn off. Speaking about the fire, she said: “I was in the bedroom and I’d been away, so I was just unpacking and was making tea and toast to go into the living room. The heater must have been on and there might have been something that caught fire.”
It has been confirmed that the fire was accidental and it is believed a two bar heater was the source of the blaze.
“I noticed a bit of smoke and I thought it must be coming from somebody’s house,” Ms. McDaid added. “I didn’t think it was from my own. Then I saw it becoming deeper and deeper. It was like something you would see in films.
“I had been trying to find my cat and I couldn’t find it. I was standing squealing, ‘somebody help me’, the smoke was that dense and black and the flames was just flying. I kept shouting ‘somebody help me, somebody help me.’
“I couldn’t even get to my phone to ring the Fire Brigade. The smoke was choking me. It was pure black.”
Gemma said she couldn’t thank those who helped rescue her from her home enough. “My neighbour, Kathleen Evans, arrived and she ran out and stopped a car and pulled the fellow out of it. It was a fellow we knew, Colm McIntyre, and he ran in and pulled me out of the house. Michaela McDermott went up to Rinmore to my sisters. Then the Fire Brigade arrived and my neighbours were so kind, my neighbour Philomena and Mrs Burke and everybody was that kind, even people I didn’t know were offering for me to come in to their homes. And Councillor Gary Donnelly was so helpful as well. He was here that night and the next day helping to get things sorted out.”
It was later confirmed there was no working smoke alarm and Mrs. McDaid said she wanted to urge everyone, particularly people around her age, to make sure they got a smoke alarm fitted.
Two appliances from Northland Road and one from Crescent Link attended the scene of the blaze and Ms. McDaid was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.
She said that once the shock wore off, the impact of what had happened left her emotional as she realised how lucky she was to be alive.
The heat in the bedroom had been so intense it melted metal objects and the rest of the property has also suffered heat and smoke damage. “The whole place is just black, the kitchen, bathroom, everything,” Ms. McDaid added. “In the room there’s nothing left, the wardrobe is all burned, the TV is burnt to a crisp, but I now realise how lucky I was.”