Belfast Telegraph

A happy ending for the children who lost all in Christmas house fire

By Anne Madden

Six children left in tears after their house - and gifts from Santa - went up in flames on Christmas Day have smiles back on their faces after the Belfast Telegraph and Smyths toy store stepped in to help.

Thanks to the generosity of the Belfast shop, Eileen Wilson's distraught children won't miss out on presents after they received a new PlayStation and games to replace those lost in the fire.

As many families were sitting down to enjoy their Christmas dinner, Eileen and her young family suddenly found themselves homeless after a freak fire destroyed their west Belfast home.

The 33-year-old and her family, from Moyard Parade off the Springfield Road, had been visiting relatives when their small terrace house was engulfed in a blaze - believed to have been started by a faulty fridge-freezer.

Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph got together with Smyths to invite the devastated children - Liam (15), George (12), Jack (11), Jolene (9), Cliodhna (7) and baby Padraig - to choose some toys to help make up for their loss.

The local community has rallied around the family of four boys and two girls, aged from 15 years to nine months, who are now staying with relatives living nearby.

Standing outside their boarded-up house yesterday, the remnants of the family's tattered Christmas were still painfully visible. Smoke-stained tinsel and burnt toys lay in the front garden next to the charred remains of the fridge that had brought the festive season to a dramatic halt for the family.

They lost everything, but Eileen was just grateful none of them had been killed or injured. "I'm just glad nothing happened to the kids," she said. "The house was gutted, even the ceilings fell down. It was an electrical fault with the fridge. We had only been in the house seven months but I've just been told it will take up to eight weeks to fix."

Yesterday the Belfast Telegraph organised a taxi to take the excited children to one of the city's biggest toy stores, Smyths off Boucher Road, where they were met by manager Brendan McElroy.

The children wandered through the aisles and in the end asked for a PlayStation games console to replace one destroyed in the fire.

The shop also provided several games to play on it.

Liam (15) had been looking forward to playing with his PlayStation over Christmas.

"I didn't get to play with it as it was destroyed in the fire," he said.

"We were very sorry to hear what happened," Mr McElroy said.

"We received a phone call to see if we could help in any way and being a family-orientated company we were very happy to step in to provide some kind of Christmas for the children."

The kids' mother said she was very grateful for the generous gifts from Smyths and the whole community.

"We just want to thank everyone for helping us," she said.

"It has been a really awful time and it's not over yet.

"We want to thank the toy shop for helping to save Christmas for the kids."

Concerned neighbours had dug deep on Christmas night and collected £300 as well as toys for the children left homeless by the fire.

Story so far

Eileen Wilson (33) and her children - the youngest of whom is just nine-months-old - left their west Belfast home just 15 minutes before their house went up in flames on Christmas Day. All of the family's Christmas presents, including a pet snake, were destroyed. The only belongings that remained were the clothes they were wearing at the time. The Fire Service is investigating an electrical fault as the cause of the blaze. It is believed to have happened in the fridge.

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