A MUM who lost her baby daughter in a house fire 20 years ago has issued a heartfelt plea for extra fire safety over the festive period.
Many people are unaware of the potential fire hazards and toxic threats that can lurk in fairy lights, candles and flammable Christmas decorations.
Although the blaze at their Wimblington home was started by an overheating ceiling light, Rosemary Elliott-Sands is all too aware of the tragedy a fire can cause and has spent the last two decades campaigning for better fire safety in homes.
Her seven-month-old daughter Christina died on Christmas Day, 1991, after fire tore through their home.
Rosemary, who still lives in Wimblington, recalled: “It was 8.20am and I woke up to hear my eldest son James shouting, ‘Mummy, mummy, burning!’ I jumped out of bed to find him but couldn’t see anything because of the smoke.
“The door frames, the landing, even the loft hatch were on fire, spitting oily flames.
“I went into the boys’ bedroom and felt their beds but they weren’t in them. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, the smoke was so thick.
“So I shouted and heard them down the stairs. James had woken up and taken his 22-month-old brother David downstairs to safety and he was shouting from halfway down. I picked them up and got them out.”
However, when Rosemary tried to go back into the house to get Christina, the fire had taken hold and she couldn’t get in.
Rosemary’s husband Edward was also unable to reach his daughter. He was trapped in their bedroom by the fire and had to escape through the window.
Neighbour Andrew Fulcher risked his life to try and save the baby but was beaten back by the smoke and flames.
It was only after Christina’s death that Rosemary discovered the shocking figures for homes being equipped with smoke alarms – something their own property had been lacking. She then made it her mission to promote the importance of fire safety in the home.
“If we had a smoke alarm, Christina would be alive today,” Rosemary said. “We would have had time to get out.
“I am quite proud of the fact that in the year Christina died, 696 people died in house fires and last year, that number was around 200. I like to think her death wasn’t for nothing.”
Rosemary has worked tirelessly with both the fire service and Home Office to share her story and bring home the importance of fire safety.
The same message has been drummed into the Elliott-Sands children. Both James and David are grown-up and have moved into their own homes in March. Rosemary and Edward also have three other boys – Robert (18), Matthew (17) and Eddie (16) – and Robert is a retained firefighter.
• Cambs Fire and Rescue have some tips for keeping safe over the holidays. Visit www.cambsfire.gov.uk for more information.