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Family devastated after fire guts home

A WEST Clare family are struggling to come to terms with the devastating loss of their home, after it was completely gutted by fire on St Patrick’s night.

The blaze broke out at the home of Dympna Devereux of Clonmore, Ballynacally, shortly after 8pm on March 17. Despite the valiant efforts of family, neighbours and the fire service, the house was completely destroyed, with the loss of all of Dympna’s belongings including many items of sentimental value to the family. Dympna’s niece, Karen Dinan, has now started a fundraising campaign to contribute to the rebuilding effort.

“Thank God nobody was injured,” said Dympna’s son Damien. “We are so thankful for that, because it could have been so much worse and we’re really do realise that not everyone is so lucky in these situations. The house belonged to my grandparents originally. My father was born there, so there’s a huge sentimental value for all of us, but especially my mother. Myself and my brother Michael grew up in that house and, other than an extension that was put on in the ‘80s, it was more or less the same as when my grandparents lived there. There were things, which huge sentimental value, that my mother has lost in the fire that we will never be able to replace. She literally left with the clothes on her back.”

Mrs Devereux, whose maiden name is Flanagan and who comes originally from Knockerra, had left her home shortly before the blaze broke out on St Patrick’s night. It was 8.30pm when Damien got a call he is unlikely to forget. “Martin Corbett and his wife Jackie saw flames rising from the house and called the fire brigade straight away, then they called me,” Damien explained. “As I was driving up the road, it was just terrible to see. By the time I got there, the fire had begun to spread to the roof and from there it just went up like a matchbox. The fire service were fantastic, but every minute waiting for them to arrive felt like an hour. It was just heart-breaking. In don’t think that I’ll ever forget it and I was worried that my mother would get a heart attack when she was driving back and saw the house in flames.”

Efforts to bring the fire under control took several hours. “At one point during the night, it looked like the fire might be dying down,” Damien said. “Then, it got a hold again and it was probably around 3am before it was fully put out. It was still smouldering the next day.”

Dympna has now moved in with Damien and his family as the Devereux struggle to come to terms with the emotional and financial toll of the blaze. “Mam is very up and down,” he said. “We’ll be sitting at the kitchen table and she’ll say, ‘I’ve got one of those up in the house,’ and then she’ll suddenly realise the house is gone. My dad’s wedding ring was in the house. There were two paintings that my mother’s mother, Kitty Flanagan, painted. We had them in two lovely frames. You could never replace things like that. It’s very, very hard on mam.”

The extent of the damage to the property means the house will have to be demolished and rebuilt. The cost could run to between €180,000 and €200,000. While insurance will cover some of the rebuilding expenses, the Devereux are hoping the fundraising campaign will help make up the shortfall. “There’s very bad structural damage after the fire,” said Damien. “As it is now, it’s unsafe and will have to be knocked. After speaking to the Fire Service, they seem to think the fire might have been caused by a phone charger, so I’d appeal to people to be careful about those. The insurance will cover a lot of the work, but there will be a shortfall.”

Dympna’s niece Karen Dinan has now set up a Gofundme page in a bid to help with the rebuilding efforts. “It is absolutely heart-breaking to see a home that has so many fond memories destroyed,” Karen said on the campaign page. “Dympna was always there for my family, brought us on many summer holidays and always welcomed us with open arms to her home.”

To-date, the family have been delighted with the response. “I have to say that people have been amazing, right from the start,” said Damien. “On the night of the fire, they were coming to Dympna with clothes and bedding. The neighbours have been exceptionally good. There is serious nature in people and I just can’t get over it. We’re humbled by the support. They realise how hard it is for my mother to be starting from scratch again.

Dympna, who is in her early 60s, is well known locally and from her 35 years of work at St Joseph’s Hospital in Ennis. “Mam is somebody who is always ready to help out,” Damien said. “If you asked her for something, she doesn’t think twice. If someone needed her to bring them somewhere, she’s ready to go. She has six grandchildren and she’s devoted to them.”

Full details of the fundraiser can be found on Gofundme.com.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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