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Community helps get Arnold back on his feet after house fire

Laura Barr

Reporter:

Laura Barr

COMMUNITY spirit has reigned supreme ensuring that a man who lost all his possessions in an accidental house fire will want for nothing when he is discharged from hospital.

Arnold McCracken (pictured) from the Kinallen Road, Dromara attempted to tackle the blaze at his house last Monday afternoon (30 July) that caused him to lose his worldly possessions.

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) received a call at 2.28pm with two appliances from both Banbridge and Ballynahinch Fire Stations tasked to the scene.

A NIFRS spokesperson said: “A man in his 50s was treated at the scene by ambulance personnel and taken to hospital with minor burns.”

The cause of the fire was determined as accidental.

Arnold, a well-known man in the Dromara area, was taken to Lagan Valley Hospital for treatment to minor burns and excessive smoke inhalation.

In the hours that followed, the community of Dromara rallied together organising collection points for household items to replace Arnold’s destroyed possessions as well as places where people could donate money if they wished.

Kinallen Rural Community Development Association (KRCDA) representatives met with Arnold’s family last Tuesday and obtained their permission to begin a collection for him.

Arnold attends many events organised by KRCDA and the group is hopeful that they can offer him whatever assistance he requires when he gets out of hospital.

A KRCDA member said: “Arnold is a very funny and well-read individual who has been coming to us for years.

“The house was the family home where Arnold and his two sisters grew up in so not only have they lost material items but many childhood memories have been lost too.”

Through KRCDA, three local businesses agreed to host collection tins in their business premises, Harry’s Country Store, Farmline (Harper’s) and BG Sales & Hydraulics.

“We were concerned about Arnold’s immediate need and his long term need. So we stood back and tried to ascertain the best way to go forward.

“We spoke with his two sisters after the incident and asked for their consent in raising some funds for Arnold.

“It was clear that they were in shock at what had happened and some of us have had trauma training so we understood that the family need their space and privacy at this difficult time.

“Arnold will of course require a lot of assistance when he eventually gets home and KRCDA has a partnership with the Dromore-based charity Via Wings and we are hopeful that they can provide assistance to Arnold.”

The member added: “Our main concern is for Arnold, a lifetime resident of Kinallen, and we are only too pleased to help Arnold in any way we can to help him get resettled when he is discharged from hospital.”

A friend of Arnold’s has also been making it her mission to help him.

Jenna Murphy who lives outside Dromara along with her six-year-old son Maddison Savage set up a gofundme page online which raised £695 in the two days after the fire.

“Arnold has literally lost everything. All of his possessions including treasured family items, it’s all gone,” Jenna said.

Jenna took it upon herself to organise drop-off points where local people could donate items.

“Arnold would go out of his way for any of his friends so it was important for all of us to get together and give something back to him.

“He needs to concentrate on getting better and thankfully he is able to do that as the items donated mean he will not need to worry about getting anything.

“We have everything from cutlery, toiletries, clothes and pyjamas to a sofa, bed, fridge and wardrobes.

“Everything donated has been more than welcomed and I know that Arnold is so thankful to everyone who helped.

“We have had all the electrical items checked by an electrician and made sure that the furniture going back into his house is fire retardant.

“It just shows you what a community can achieve in such a short space of time when everyone pulls together.”

Jenna’s son Maddison has been helping his mum source items for Arnold.

“He has come up with lots of things that Arnold will be needing that none of us had even thought of.”

Jenna said the total amount collected for Arnold is over £1,000 including collection tins and the gofundme page.

“The money will be used for Arnold to buy things such as home heating oil, carpets, rugs, food, electricity etc. when he leaves hospital.”

Jenna said she has been inundated with messages from people offering their support, from teenagers to the elderly.

“It just goes to show how well thought of Arnold is in the local area. He is a real character and everyone has a kind word to say about him.”

Jenna would like to pay a special thanks to Linda Fitzpatrick as well as Brian Hunter and Jules Stothard, owners of Laganview Arms, Dromara which was used as a drop-off point for collections as well as Square One Bar and O’Reilly’s Bar.

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