June Booth, 84, pays tribute to the Ilfracombe community, which has launched an appeal after her home was devastated by a flash fire.
AN 84-year-old Ilfracombe woman who lost everything after being forced to flee her burning bungalow has spoken of her ordeal and deep gratitude to all those who have rallied around to help her.
June Booth and her cat Tiger were able to escape just in time as flames ripped through her home at Chambercombe Park Road in seconds on Wednesday evening.
Six fire engines plus the hydraulic platform from Barnstaple were called out as around 50 fire fighters under Group Commander Pete Bond fought the blaze, which spread incredibly quickly and left the house gutted.
Neither June nor Tiger were injured, but she was literally left with nothing.
This has prompted a huge surge of support from people and businesses around Ilfracombe after being rallied by David Jones from Hele Corn Mill, and they have been busy collecting clothing and donations to help June through the crisis.
“It is terribly kind of people and I am just overwhelmed, I really am,” she told the North Devon Gazette.
“I didn’t think Ilfracombe had such a fantastic community spirit and I am really deeply grateful. It has been a tremendous help, as I came out with only what I was stood up in.
“I lost everything. I have no identity now – my nephew is trying to get another birth certificate for me, otherwise I can’t get anything.
“But it’s only things, it’s not important. I would have been much more upset if the cat had gone – possessions are not important in this world.”
She said on Wednesday she had lit an open fire as she usually did before settling down to listen to the evening news, before popping back into the kitchen.
“Literally 30 seconds later I walked back and smelt this burning, and I just couldn’t get into the room, it was as quick as that,” continued June.
She said it appeared a spark had jumped from the fire and set light to the furniture.
“My reaction was to run to the telephone and get the fire brigade, but I don’t think they could hear me as they kept asking what service I wanted. The phone line runs through that room and I think it must have been slowly melting,” she added.
A neighbour called the fire service and June said their response had been ‘fantastic’.
A terrified Tiger
Tiger fled, but was nowhere to be found. June said she had wanted to go and call for him but fire fighters would not let her approach because the windows were exploding.
Eventually a terrified Tiger was returned to her by a fireman, who found him in a panic trying to get back into the burning house.
June has been staying with a neighbour, but in the meantime a Facebook appeal initially posted by David Jones has seen a huge response.
Community rallies around
Donations of clothing and useful items have flooded in – so much so that enough have been collected, plus people and businesses have been organising collections to help June get back on her feet.
David said Nick Pedlar had arranged for collection jars at High Street shops, Tesco Ilfracombe had held a raffle, musician Paul Clews was arranging a music event at Larkstone, Kerry Turton at nearby Pinehurst nursing home organised a collection of clothing, as had William Hill in the High Street.
“I think people have felt very distressed by her plight, even though they don’t know her,” said David.
“It can’t be emphasised how quickly the residents of Ilfracombe have rallied in support of someone who has had such a tragic loss. Sometimes Ilfracombe gets a bit of bad press but in this case I think the community has shown itself to be admirable.”
The Rotary Club of Ilfracombe has offered use of its bank account temporarily. Anyone wishing to make a direct donation for June can do so at a Lloyds Bank branch, to: Sort code 30-94-52 and account number 00318046 – please quote reference ‘Fire Appeal’.
* Anyone who wishes to donate by cheque can do so, making them payable to June Booth and dropping them at the Ilfracombe branch of NatWest in the High Street. They can be posted to: June Booth Fire Appeal, NatWest, 135 High Street, Ilfracombe, EX34 9HA.