England

Fire at Beechmere retirement homes 'broke up community'

Fred Chorlton Image copyright Fred Chorlton
Image caption Fred Chorlton says he feels like he took Beechmere "for granted"

The damage caused by a fire that tore through a retirement complex in Crewe led to its community being broken up, former residents have said.

About 150 people lost everything when homes at Beechmere residential site, in Crewe, were ravaged by fire in August.

Many residents have new places to live but say they miss their old neighbours, especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Community groups have tried to help residents overcome their sense of loss by offering meals and services.

Fred Chorlton, 85, was in temporary accommodation for three months after the blaze.

Image copyright Paula Allen
Image caption Residents say they miss the "sense of camaraderie" Beechmere provided

He has since been found a permanent place to live, but misses his home of almost a decade.

"At Beechmere at Christmas, there would be lots of visitors always asking how you were and a real sense of camaraderie," Mr Chorlton said.

"The fire broke us all up, we were all dispersed and it's difficult to get that community back; I took it for granted."

Doris Pay, known as Dot, shares Fred's view.

Her daughter-in-Law Sarah, who took her in following the fire, said: "Dot has just settled into her permanent flat, but because it's not part of a complex, she's more separate now and she misses the social side that Beechmere had."

Image copyright Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption The large fire in the summer destroyed many homes at the retirement complex
Image copyright Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service
Image caption This was the scene that was left after the blaze had been put out

In the fire, Mrs Pay lost her late husband's ashes and a sentimental necklace which depicted his thumbprint.

Joseph O'Connell's Funeral Services in Crewe gifted Mrs Pay with a replacement necklace after the blaze.

"We wanted to do something special for Dot as she's gone through such a tough time," Joe O'Connell, who owns the funeral services, said.

"When you've lost everything, the smallest things make a difference."

Image copyright Iain Chalmers
Image caption Charity Hopes and Beams organised regular lunches for residents

Crewe charity Hopes & Beams also sprang into action, organising regular free meals for residents, as did The Lighthouse Centre.

"We became a place for them to meet up, to let out their emotions and recount their memories of the disaster," Hopes and Beams co-founder Iain Chalmers said.

Reverend David Edwards, of The Lighthouse Centre, said the fire was still "raw" to residents who used the centre to "try and overcome the trauma together".

For Christmas, Your Housing Group which operated Beechmere, sent each resident a share of about £60,000 raised for them by the community.

"The money did help," Sarah Pay said, "But it can't really replace what the residents lost.

"That was just irreplaceable."

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