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Heartbroken homeless Omagh mum speaks of losing all the family possessions in blaze

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Heartbroken homeless Omagh mum speaks of losing all the family possessions in blaze thumbnailJill McCann and her youngest daughter, four-year-old Rose, in the smoke-damaged living room of their home at Drumannon Rise, Omagh.

A single Omagh mother-of-four who has been left homeless after a fire tore through her house in Drummannon Rise on Saturday afternoon, has told The Tyrone Constitution about her family's terrifying ordeal.

Jill McCann and her four daughters, who are aged between 21 and four, had to make a quick escape from their rented home on Omagh's Dromore Road at around 2.13pm when an electrical fault caused the property to go up in flames. The blaze ripped through the building, destroying everything in its sight, before firefighters rushed to the scene just around 15 minutes later.

Firefighters confirmed they dealt with a fire in a two storey semi-detached house. "Five people were out of the property on arrival of firefighters," said a spokesperson. "Smoke alarms were fitted and activated in the property. The cause of the fire was determined as accidental. The incident was dealt with at 3.20pm."

 

Thankfully Jill and her children all made it out unscathed, but the family's dog, a seven-year-old Shitzu, and pet turtle, sadly perished in the blaze. The family's Christmas presents were also destroyed, as well as Jill's disabled daughter's medical supplies and equipment. Also sadly destroyed were 100 medals Jill had received for completing marathons across Ireland.

On Monday, Jill, her friends and neighbours were still clearing up the mess. Only a couple of beds and mattresses were salvaged from the blaze.

Jill, who believes the fire started at a meter box in the living room, said the house was almost completely burnt after only 15 minutes.

"Me and the children were in the house at the time," she explained. "It was scary how quickly the fire escalated. I was dragging the children out because they didn't want to leave anything behind. By the time the firefighters arrived, only around 15 minutes later, the damage was done. But we all got out alive - if we had been in our beds we wouldn't have got out as handy. We are thankful this happened during the afternoon, we are very lucky. It hasn't sunk in yet.

"Caoimhe has disabilities and she is suffering the most. She has Global Developmental Delay, she is 10 but has the mental age of a five-year-old and also has epilepsy, is asthmatic and a muscle disorder which means she is paralysed for up to 48 hours at a time when she needs her wheelchair. All of her medical needs and equipment was destroyed. Thankfully, Tom McGread's Pharmacy was able to loan me some emergency medication."

 

"We have lost nearly everything - the only thing I have managed to salvage is a couple of beds, mattresses. We have nothing else. Cooker, fridge, tumbledryer, dishwasher, furniture, tables, chairs, Christmas presents, even my daughter's GCSE books and uniform have all been destroyed. 

 

All of the children are completely devastated, especially my daughter who found the turtle dead. Some things can be replaced, others can't like old photographs. I have run 100 marathons across Ireland, and all of the medals are destroyed."

Jill, who said she has been living in the house for five years and built an extension  - a bathroom and bedroom - just over a year ago, is currently living at a nearby B&B.

"I have to stay in the town because my children need to go to school," she said. "I have been told I cannot be housed in Omagh just yet. We were put up in the Mellon Country Inn on Sunday night. I hope to get a house soon because we cannot live out of  a B&B for long, especially with my daughter who has disabilities.

A fundraising page has been set up for the family and, thanks to the generosity of the local community, the target of 5,000 has already been exceeded.

"People have been great, coming with teddies and all, but it isn't the children's own stuff," continued Jill. "The support shown by everyone, even strangers, has been incredible. They have brought clothes, teddies and food."

Jill paid a special tribute to Red Cross volunteers who arrived at the house in a camper van, providing hot drinks, food, clothes and colouring books. "There are just too many people to thank."

If you would like to help the McCann family, visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jillmccann to donate.

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