Christmas tree blamed for blaze

By Staff Reporter

A FIRE caused by a Christmas tree has gutted the inside of a young family’s Northbrook Drive home just as the festive season gets under way.

And instead of planning for the big day with her two children, Cherise Maguire (27) is desperately trying to find a new home, but so far without success.

Cherise was out when the devastating fire ripped through her home on Saturday.

“It was my wee girl’s birthday, she had turned four,” she said. “I got a taxi from my  house round to Flax Street to pick up a present. My mother then rang me to say that she had been told that the house was in blazes. By the time I got there the Fire Brigade had arrived. The windows had melted already and the whole house had been gutted.

“They reckon that it was the fibre-optic Christmas tree. I had switched it off before I went out, but I had had it on for a few hours beforehand. I switched it off at the wall but hadn’t taken the plug out and they think the plug overheated, sparked and caught on to all the stuff that was there.”

The bad news didn’t end with the burning of her home – Cherise has been trying to find an alternative accommodation, but without success.

“I went to the Housing Executive and they have nothing available here. The only thing they had is on the outskirts of Belfast but I can’t do that because the two kids are at school.

“The wee boy is in Holy Cross Boys’ and the wee girl in Holy Cross Nursery, so it would be too far away to get them to and from school. So since the fire I’ve been staying with my grandmother.”

Cherise thanked the local community for their help.

“The response has been brilliant. People have been very generous and I can’t really believe it, to be honest. There’s that many people texting and sending messages asking if I’m okay. There’s been a lot of donations given, including toys for the children.”

One group that has stepped in to help is Ardoyne Freecycle, which has been collecting items for less-fortunate families over the past few months. One of their volunteers, Dee Fennell, spoke about the help given to Cherise.

“Last week this girl’s house burnt down and we want to be in a position to help anybody at any time of the year to get back on their feet if an incident like that occurs,” said Dee.

“Thankfully we’ve been able to get her TVs, electrical equipment, furniture, beds, clothes, toys and games consoles for her children.”

It’s another cruel blow for the family as Cherise’s husband died at the start of the year.

“My wee boy gets a lot of extra help because he has traits of autism. All this has really upset him. My husband passed away in January there, so it’s his first Christmas without his daddy as well.”

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