Belfast Telegraph

Down house blaze Peden family astonished by £11,500 fund

By Cate McCurry and Lesley Houston

A Co Down family left homeless after a fire just days before Christmas have told how they have been overwhelmed by new "friends" who have raised almost £11,500.

The family received further good news yesterday when the Housing Executive said a new home would be available to them in the coming weeks.

Arsonists targeted a recycling centre in Rathfriland in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The resulting blaze spread to the Peden family's rented home on Kiltariff Drive and destroyed the property.

Andy, his wife Rebecca and their daughter Daisy fled the house barefoot and in their pyjamas and were left with nothing.

Just hours after the blaze, a Just Giving page was set up to help raise £1,000 for the family to help them through Christmas.

But by Wednesday afternoon, just slightly more than 24 hours since the fire had consumed the family's home, more than £10,000 had been raised.

Complete strangers - who Andy has since described as "friends" - had offered them properties and even a new car to replace their own, which was also destroyed in the incident.

"We thought our Christmas was going to be lost this year, but the donations everybody has given us will help to ease the pain that we've suffered," he said.

"People refer to the help of the neighbours, but we don't see them as neighbours now - we see them as friends."

He added words of praise for the local shops and politicians who have also helped them through the trauma of losing everything they owned.

"We can only thank the stores and the shops, all our friends and family and the local politicians from all sides, from the DUP, to the UUP, to Sinn Fein," he added.

"They have all rallied together, and it just shows you that Rathfriland sticks together as a community - no matter what race, what colour or what religion you might be."

The community support came at a timely moment for the grateful father, who was recently made redundant.

Speaking from her grandparents' house, which is next door to the house where she grew up, a relieved Rebecca told the Belfast Telegraph the family was delighted to be getting a house.

"We were told that the Housing Executive could give us a house, so we are just so happy," she said. "We can't believe the generosity of people."

"We should be moving in after Christmas or hopefully in the New Year."

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