Tuesday 15 October 2019

Family's lucky escape as fire rips through their home

Ciara Galvin

A family living near Dromahair are rebuilding their lives after escaping a fire which destroyed their home on Friday morning last.

Greum Na Hearadh and Niamh O'Brien and their children lost everything when a fire engulfed their home as they were sleeping in the early hours of Friday morning.

Niamh woke to the noise of a carbon monoxide alarm at 3am thinking it was an alarm clock, but was met with flames engulfing the family home.

Speaking to The Sligo Champion after their home was destroyed by the fire, the couple said they have been blown away by the kindness of the local community who have rallied around them after they lost everything.

Niamh explained that it took a matter of minutes for the fire to quickly take hold but they thankfully quickly got Greum's two children (4 and 7) and her son (6) to safety on the night.

"I ran into the living room kitchen and could see flames licking the walls at the righthand side behind the stove.

"I ran back into the kids' bedrooms and got them out to safety. It had gone up a huge amount in that space of time," explained Ms O'Brien.

The Clare native then ran to get the family's four dogs to safety from the flames downstairs in the self sufficient home, which her partner built over a period of several years.

"After getting the kids to safety we went back up to try and fight it but it was a futile exercise really...It went up in a very short time."

Niamh and Greum attempted to dampen flames with fire extinguishers which were onsite, and filled buckets of water, but the blaze proved too much.

"I had tried to fill buckets of water from an outside tap but it [the house] was gone in minutes, it [the fire] had taken over."

The couple has hailed the gardaí and fire services for their help on the night.

A GoFundMe page was set up by a member of the community since the fire and the couple has received offerings of everything from children's clothes, to pots and pans.

"Everybody has been brilliant. There's been offers of dishes and pots and pans but we still don't have anywhere to put them yet." Still unsure as to how the fire started, the family are now concentrating on rebuilding their lives and are currently staying with friends.

"We've been blown away by the community, by friends, by family. I'd be very embarrassed about asking for help, we're so grateful for the support People have been absolutely unbelievable.

"I've never seen anything like it. The amount of people who have offered support has just been phenomenal," said Ms O'Brien

Humbled by donations and support, she added that it was important for herself and her partner to show the children that life must continue and they can rebuild their lives.

Despite having gone through the traumatic event, Niamh returned to her volunteering work on Monday and the children returned to school.

"I tried to explain to them that it's like lego, we'll build it again.

"We can create our own memories from here on in...The kids are upset, but it's better they understand they were lucky to have gotten out unscathed," explains the mother, adding that the school has been incredible in putting in place future supports for them.

Explaining the kindness of neighbours, Niamh said one woman even gave her son money to buy himself new dinosaurs which he had lost in the fire.

"There was a kind lady that gave him money, I didn't even see her doing it and she told him to go and get him some dinosaurs, he's crazy about them."

In the midst of all the goodwill and kindness however, the family experienced others trying to pillage the burnt out site.

To add insult to injury, the site where the home was located was raided soon after.

"We've already had people try to raid the site. We went back the following day after locking the gates the previous day and somebody had tried to drive the gates in."

Focusing on the positives of having all escaped the blaze, Niamh believes they will recover from the events of last Friday morning and they will look at rebuilding their home.

"Seven years of blood, sweat and tears but what can you say, if he [Greum] did it once he can do it again and I've no doubt he will be able to do it," she said.

Sligo Champion