Fire survivor Gemma raises safety alarm

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A pensioner who escaped death when a fire tore through her home in August has urged fellow citizens to make sure they have a working smoke alarm fitted as it could save their lives.

Gemma McDaid, aged 77, narrowly escapaed death when a blaze destroyed her Iniscarn Court home and almost all of her personal belongings on August 21. Six weeks after the inferno, Mrs. McDaid has spoken of her experience as part of Fire Safety Week.

She said: “I was heading to bed when I thought I’d put the electric heater on in my bedroom. I then went into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea and some toast. I noticed that the light was flickering and I went out into the hall to check what was wrong.

“That’s when I saw the smoke from my bedroom. When I opened the door the flames were leaping up the walls. I couldn’t believe how quickly the fire started – just the time it took to make some tea and toast!

“It was terrifying. I ran back into the kitchen and grabbed a wee bowl of water - I don’t know what I was thinking as there was no way it was going to put the fire out. When you’re faced with a fire like that, you panic. I couldn’t find my phone but thanks to my neighbour who flagged down a passing car, I was able to get out of the house safely. It was only then that I was able to call the Fire & Rescue Service. Thankfully they were able to put the fire out but my house was gutted. It destroyed almost everything I own – what has not been burnt is smoke damaged and blackened. I can’t get over how lucky I am to escape – everything else I can replace.

“Later I found out that the electric heater had set fire to clothes that I had hanging over a chair nearby. That was a shock and a wake-up call. I also didn’t have a smoke alarm. I was fortunate to escape and now I want to ensure that no-one else faces the same experience. My message to everyone is to make sure that you have a working smoke alarm fitted in your home.”

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