A woman whose living room caught fire on Christmas Day just weeks before she planned to emigrate has paid tribute to her supportive friends.
Jackie Garner was about to sit down for Christmas dinner with her daughter Jess when a tealight in the downstairs bay window set fire to the curtains.
They escaped with minor burn injuries after initially attempting to tackle the ceiling high flames themselves, but severe smoke damage inside the house has left it uninhabitable.
Jackie had planned to travel to Australia at the end of January to meet up with husband Elliot, who had left Jackie and Jess at their home in Ashcroft Drive, Old Whittington, on Christmas Eve to fly out to start his new job as a mechanic in Queensland.
The wrecked house was temporarily uninsured at the time of the fire because of the impending move, and Jackie and Jess feared they wouldn’t be able to start their new lives down under on schedule - but thanks to Jackie’s former colleagues at the Ashover Ward of Chesterfield Royal Hospital, they’re now hopeful of making their flight.
“We sat in the house on Boxing Day and it felt hopeless,” said Jackie, 46.
“But then my colleagues descended on us. They’ve been absolutely fantastic.”
Jackie’s friends have begun re-decorating and tidying the house, with one local firm installing a new ceiling, and others providing free skips to help take rubbish away.
“It’s humbling,” said Jackie. “Everybody has rallied round for us and it really restores your faith in people’s kindness.”
Jackie admits she and Jess, 17, were lucky not to have been more seriously hurt.
“I was in the kitchen just about to serve dinner when Jess ran in and shouted ‘Mum, we’re on fire.’
“I tried to put the fire out with a tea towel at first, but within second the flames were above my head so we ran outside. I’ll never have tea lights again,” she said. “We know we’ve had a lucky escape.”