Neighbours have shown real community spirit as they rallied round for a pensioner left homeless after a fire in Kirk Hallam this weekend.
Bill Bellaby says a cigarette caused the blaze, which started in his bedroom in Tilton Grove on Sunday at about 4.30pm.
Seeing smoke billowing out of the first floor bedroom window, neighbours didn’t hesitate to raise the alarm and call the fire brigade, who were on the scene in minutes, along with paramedics and members of the Red Cross.
And when it emerged that the 71-year-old, who has lived alone at the property since his brother died seven years ago, could not return home, Rev David Fergus from nearby All Saints Church offered him a bed at the vicarage.
“I am so very, very grateful,” he said.
“If it hadn’t have been for them I don’t know what I would have done.”
Mr Bellaby was not badly hurt in the blaze but was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation on the scene by an ambulance crew.
“I had only half smoked a cigarette,” he explained.
“I didn’t realise it was still lit and walked out of the bedroom.
“I was confident that everything was alright.
“The next thing I knew there was smoke billowing out on to the street.
“It was pretty scary but I don’t remember a lot of what happened. It was all a bit of a blur,” he said.
The house has been left badly smoke damaged and Rev Fergus explained that Mr Bellaby ‘only had the clothes he was standing up in’.
After the Sunday evening service at All Saints, church-goers asked him if there was anything he could do to help the pensioner, who has been a church member for many years.
“The neighbours were brilliant,” he said. “I have talked to a number of people in the church and some of the congregation took him out to buy him clothes.
“They have fed him and been out and about with him to keep him company.
“They have really rallied round and supported him. They’ve been excellent.”
Mr Bellaby stayed at the vicarage on Sunday and Monday night until his landlord contacted him to offer him temporary accommodation. It is not known whether he will be able to move back in to his home.
“I’m really impressed by what the neighbours have done for him,” added Rev Fergus.
“Smoke got into their homes during the fire but they weren’t bothered, they just wanted to help Bill.
“It’s wonderful to see.”
Mr Bellaby is still in need of furniture and clothes. Contact us here at the Advertiser if you would like to help him out with a donation.
Call 0115 944 6181, email firstname.lastname@example.org or drop in at 8 Heanor Road, Ilkeston, DE7 8ER during office hours.