Fire terror victim grateful to saviours

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014
Eileen Thomas,
SAFE AND SOUND: Eileen Thomas, of New Plymouth, is indebted to Taranaki’s firefighters for rescuing her from her burning home.
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Eileen Thomas will never be able to thank Taranaki's firefighters enough for pulling her to safety from the burning balcony of her Ngamotu Rd home.

Three months ago, the 71-year-old was stuck in terror as flames licked around her, while granddaughter Paula screamed for help on the front lawn.

The fire claimed Paula's dog, 18-month-old shih tzu Cooper, which she had cremated.

"It was very traumatic," Eileen told the Taranaki Daily News from her rented home on Hine St yesterday.

"But the firemen, I just cannot thank them enough. They were just absolutely wonderful."

It was New Plymouth firefighters who pulled Eileen from her balcony on to the roof of her shed to safety, before carrying her down in a stretcher to a waiting ambulance.

This was no small fire. Four appliances and 24 firefighters spent 40 minutes putting it out.

Eileen was flown to Waikato Hospital with serious burns to her body and Paula was treated for smoke inhalation.

Eileen spent six weeks in Waikato and another two in hospital in New Plymouth before she was allowed home last month.

Only now can she really talk about what happened that night.

"It all happened so fast," Eileen said.

She was preparing for bed when she heard strange noises. Her granddaughter went to investigate and discovered the house was on fire.

Eileen tried making her way to the bathroom but thick, black smoke stopped her.

"It was choking. The only place I could go was out on the deck. That was where I got stuck."

She does not remember being rescued. Neither was she aware she had suffered any burns.

"There was no pain. What I do remember is being in the ambulance and they poured cold water over me for the burns. Then there was some pain.

"The medical people were just so good. Wonderful people."

She has also been overwhelmed by the support she received from family, friends and strangers. The family is now looking to rebuild on their Ngamotu Rd section and in the meantime a neighbour had offered to rent them her home.

"It's such a comfortable feeling to be back home again," Eileen said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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