Sudbury fire victim praises ‘amazing’ support of local councils

Firefighters and emergency services at the scene of the huge blaze at the Market Hill end of Friars

Firefighters and emergency services at the scene of the huge blaze at the Market Hill end of Friars Street in Sudbury - Credit: Archant

Despite losing “absolutely everything” in the Sudbury fire, 70-year-old former nanny Penny Zair has nothing but praise for the local community for all the help and support she has received in the aftermath.

The aftermath of the fire in Sudbury

The aftermath of the fire in Sudbury - Credit: Archant

Although she has struggled to come to terms with the loss of personal items including a lifetime’s worth of photographs and her mother’s treasured jewellery, she considers herself fortunate to be alive – especially given that her flat was one of those above the Oxfam shop which was completely gutted by the blaze.

On the evening of the fire, Ms Zair was at home watching TV in the flat she had occupied for 18 years when she was alerted by passers by who had spotted smoke and shouted out to warn residents.

She recalled: “It was absolutely terrifying. I had to feel my way along the wall through thick black smoke. It took me about five minutes to get down the stairs and then some people outside smashed the door and opened it.”

Ms Zair was taken to West Suffolk Hospital where she remained for three days after being treated for smoke inhalation and a subsequent chest infection. While she was there, she was visited by social services who found her a room at Red House residential home in Sudbury’s Meadow Lane.

She added: “For the first few nights after the fire, I couldn’t sleep and was very anxious. As I don’t have any family close by and am on my own, I would have been really isolated in a bed and breakfast.

“Instead the people in Red House have been so caring and supportive.”

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Ms Zair said the response from the town and district councils – and the local community – had been equally “amazing”.

“The day I got out of hospital, I went to the town hall to introduce myself and they were brilliant right from the off,” she said.

“They gave me clothes, toiletries and £100 in cash to pay for essentials, and they delivered everything to Red House for me.

“I have definitely found it very hard since the fire but I have absolutely no complaints about the treatment I have received. The council has been amazing, supportive and very helpful.”

Since the fire, she has been offered free counselling sessions at the Kernos Centre to help her deal with the psychological trauma. She has also been found a permanent place in Playford Court sheltered housing complex in the town.

She is sad to have lost around £3,000 worth of craft materials which she used in her favourite past-time, cross-stitch. But she added: “If the fire had started in the middle of the night, I don’t think I’d be sitting here today. I have a lot to be grateful for.”

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