Family left devastated after fire destroys Co Down home
MORE than £1,000 was raised in an hour yesterday for a Co Down family left homeless by a blaze that ripped through their house.
Andy and Rebecca Peden and their two-year-old daughter Daisy escaped uninjured from their burning Rathfriland home after a blaze is believed to have spread from a nearby waste recycling centre.
The family had only moved into the Kiltariff Drive property around six weeks and were preparing to spend their first Christmas in their new home.
But the blaze, which happened at 1.45am yesterday, has completely destroyed the house.
The charred remains of toys and a child's buggy were yesterday among the debris strewn around the property.
Police said the fire was being treated as suspicious.
The shaken family were last night staying with relatives as they take in the enormity of the loss of their home and possessions, including Christmas presents and wedding photographs.
Mr Peden has spoken of their terrifying ordeal and described how they have "lost everything".
"The heat coming through the panes of glass was incredible, it was boiling hot," he said.
"I ran upstairs to wake Rebecca and Daisy [their daughter], just to tell them that there was a fire.
"Rebecca grabbed the child out of bed and started to come downstairs, I had to run up past her to get the keys for the front door.
"As soon as I opened the door the embers and the heat just met me at the front door and I knew we had to get out, I knew the fire was going to spread."
More than 40 firefighters battled the blaze, centred mainly on the detached house and a large amount of plastic at the recycling centre. A nearby car was damaged.
A neighbour told the Irish News of how she was awoken by the fire "blowing from the recycling centre nearby".
"Another neighbour was knocking at the door to get them out.
"Things were frantic and the couple and the child went into another neighbour's house, the man started vomiting as he must have had smoke inhalation.
"It's just so sad when you see a house ruined and a family left with nothing."
A spokesman for the fire and rescue service said conditions were "particularly difficult due to high winds" and the "cause of the fire is under investigation".
Environment minister Mark H Durkan said initial assessment by NI Environment Agency officers at the waste recycling site had found the "impact to the environment as low".
"This recycling site has an exemption to waste management licensing for the baling, sorting, and shredding of waste plastics for recovery or reuse, and the sorting and baling of paper or cardboard for recovery."
Within hours of the blaze, a JustGiving page was set up by DUP councillor Mark Baxter. with people pledging more than £1,000 to help the stricken family.
Mr Baxter said he was raising money "to help a young family at Christmas because a house fire destroyed everything they had".
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