A COMMUNITY has united to support a Moray family of nine whose home was gutted by fire just days before Christmas.
Two adults and seven children were forced to flee their burning house, in the Kininvie area, near Dufftown, before it was destroyed in the early hours of yesterday morning (Thursday).
The house is believed to be the property of John Law, who lived there with his partner and their seven children.
According to fire officials, having a working smoke alarm undoubtedly saved the lives of the occupants.
Local senior officer for Aberdeenshire and Moray, David Rout, said: "Firstly, I would like to pass on my heartfelt sympathies to the family at what is clearly a very difficult and distressing time.
"What this tragic incident does highlight is the importance of having a fully working smoke alarm in your property. If the family had not been wakened by their smoke alarm, this incident could have been even more devastating."
The parents were woken by the smoke alarm at 12.50am, and phoned the fire service, saying that their house was ablaze.
A total of 20 firefighters were called in from Dufftown, Keith and Aberlour. There was also a water-carrier from Buckie.
Fire crews used thermal imaging cameras and lighting during the incident, which also destroyed a caravan containing several cylinders.
Fire group manager Paul Geddes said the fire was "well established" when crews arrived. "Our firefighters worked very hard in arduous conditions due to high winds," he said.
"Prompt action by the parents to get the family out safely and alert the fire service undoubtedly averted a more serious outcome."
Edna Buchan, owner of the Commercial Hotel in Dufftown, revealed that the local community had rallied round to support the family.
An appeal has been launched, and people have been handing in presents to the hotel and Mortlach Primary School.
"John was born and brought up in Dufftown," she said. "It’s a hellish thing to happen at this time of year."
The school closes for the Christmas holidays today (Friday), but people can continue to drop off items at the Commercial Hotel in Church Street.
Sheena MacKinnon, head teacher at Mortlach Primary, said yesterday that a parent who had a link to the family let staff know what had happened.
Mrs MacKinnon said the community immediately offered its help, mainly collecting clothes, which were delivered by car to the family’s temporary accommodation in Elgin at lunchtime yesterday.
"Word of mouth got around, and everybody was really desperate to help with something," she said. "From what we understand, they were still in their nightclothes and didn’t have much else."
Mrs MacKinnon said that two of the seven children are pupils at the school, with others at Speyside High, while a couple more have now left school.
Some of the older children are former pupils of the primary, she added.
Pupils at Mortlach have been eager to offer their messages of support, Mrs MacKinnon said, with some creating hand-made cards to be delivered to the family.
"Once we became aware of it, we wanted to know what we could do to help. We are obviously very relieved that all the family are OK, but the whole building is gone apparently.
"We have had a succession of people coming in. Dufftown is like that – it is not a big place. Word got around very quickly, and people want to help."
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul said that the community should be relieved that everyone got out of the house safely.
"We have to be thankful that their lives were saved," she said. "The most important thing is the lives of the people inside, and it is a blessing to think they have all been saved."