GENEROUS Scots showered hospitality and hundreds of gifts on immigrant families who were driven from their homes by a massive fire two days before Christmas.
Around 50 firefighters raced to the scene of the blaze in Kirkcaldy, Fife, which forced the residents of six flats to flee for their lives and left two families homeless at Christmas.
But an appeal for help by Fife Police, broadcast on local radio and spread via Facebook, meant the devastated families – from Portugal and Romania – were flooded with presents, food and drink, and offers of transport.
A five-year-old girl who donated some of her own Christmas presents was typical of the generosity shown by the community.
Manuela Figueiredo, her husband and two young children, from Lisbon, were looking forward to the Christmas holiday when disaster struck.
Although the family escaped, the blaze destroyed their home – including the presents they had bought for Lara, six, and Leonardo, eight.
They were given emergency accommodation by the local council but the holiday was looking grim.
Manuela, 35, said: “My children said to me: ‘We don’t have any presents’. I told them ‘the best thing is that we are OK, we can get more presents’.”
She added: “People have sent so many toys for them, they have sent dolls and cars, and lots of chocolate. I am very happy and grateful for that.”
“I really want to thank all the people who thought about my children on Christmas day, I’m really grateful. I wasn’t expecting so many people to help me.”
Her husband, Gorge, 39, added: “The children had a lot of presents, they have always been quite spoiled on that matter.
“Many people have been very generous and they’ve almost got back all the toys that they lost. “It’s restored my faith in humanity. My opinion of Scots people wasn’t bad but I was really surprised by the response.”
Manuela said: “I was really surprised, and I wasn’t expecting it. It was nice to be able to have a proper Christmas meal.”
However, the experience has left its mark on Leonardo in particular.
Manuela said: “My son has told me he can still see the fire when he closes his eyes.”
Local resident Tracy Buchan was one of those who posted on Facebook. She said: “I sent a couple of pressies for the kids last night, it’s not much but after losing everything I guess every little helps. Xxx”
Another woman told how her own young daughter had been touched by their plight.
Kirsty McFall wrote: “My daughter went off and gave a few of her Xmas presents, some T-shirts I’d literally put new in her drawer a few weeks ago, sweets etc. She’s only 5! So proud of her and the other kind people that made a rubbish day that little bit more bearable!!”
Local businesses also made donations to the cause. Sainsbury’s, Aldi and a local department store added more food and toys to the growing pile of donations.
Staff and customers at Sainsbury’s even donated more than £300 in cash after being contacted by local MSP David Torrance.
He said: “I am really impressed by the generosity of Sainsbury’s and its customers at this time of year. “It’s a relief there was no loss of life, but to lose everything at Christmas time, especially when you have children, is terrible.”
The store manager Sam Grogan added: “Hopefully this will make the children’s Christmas as normal as can be after what was a harrowing experience for them.”
A spokesman forFife police said: “The police made an appeal for clothes for the children and toiletries, and we have had a huge response from the local community.
“There’s been a lot of food and toys donated so it’s been a good response. It’s a bit of a Christmas miracle.”
A spokesman for Fife Council said: “The housing department had to temporarily rehome a Portuguese family and a Romanian family. We opened up Dunearn Primary School as a short-term place of safety and made arrangements to get them accommodation overnight.
“It’s desperately unlucky for them at this time of year.”
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