A mum-of-five is facing an uncertain New Year after fire caused extensive smoke damage to her home two days before Christmas.
Caroline Gordon and her family were left homeless following the accidental blaze at Station Road in Castledawson.
With help from friends and neighbours, she managed to find temporary accommodation in a bungalow at nearby Railway Terrace but has to leave at the end of this week.
“I don’t know where we’re going to go,” Caroline told the Mail. “I was offered emergency accommodation by the Housing Executive in Belfast and Omagh but turned it down.”
Caroline says she wants to continue living in Castledawson where the local community has rallied to help her and her grown up family.
Most of the contents of her home were destroyed by the dense smoke which filled the house on December 23.
Caroline had been to the shops to do some Christmas shopping and returned to find fire appliances outside the dwelling. The alarm had been raised by a vigilant neighbour.
“I just screamed,” recalled Caroline. “I knew I hadn’t left anything on in the house and didn’t know what had happened.”
The fire is understood to have been started by an electrical fault at a socket where her son Michael had left a computer on stand by.
Fortunately, no one was in the house at the time.
Caroline believes the fire could have been smouldering for two or three hours causing dense smoke to fill the property.
She thought her dogs were still inside the house and tried to run past a firefighter but he stopped her at the bottom of the stairs.
“The dogs had got out safely although the house was destroyed and we spent the night in The Inn at Main Street,” Caroline continued.
Her heartbreak has been compounded by the fact that she overlooked renewing her house insurance.
Her friend Maura McKee immediately set up a gofund page to help raise urgent funds for Caroline. Many local people have generously donated almost £1,500 over the Christmas period.
“I could never have got through this without Maura. She’s a Godsend,” she said. “I want to thank her and the people who have donated to the fund.”
Although the family managed to have a Christmas dinner in the temporary accommodation, Caroline said it didn’t feel like a proper Christmas.
She said she did not know when she and the family would be able to move back into the house.
“With the Christmas and New Year holiday we’ve received no indication when we can go back,” she said. “My immediate concern is getting new accommodation in Castledawson.”