Grandmother tells firefighters she would not be alive had it not been for their efforts the night a fire destroyed her Sudbury home

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:20 20 November 2015

Christina Dekes thanks the Long Melford and Sudbury retained fire crews.

Christina Dekes thanks the Long Melford and Sudbury retained fire crews.

Sarah Lucy brown

“Thank you for my life” were the words of Christina Deke as she was reunited with the heroes who rescued her from a fire in Sudbury earlier this year.

Christina Dekes thanks the Long Melford and Sudbury retained fire crews.Christina Dekes thanks the Long Melford and Sudbury retained fire crews.

Humbled, shaken and emotional, the grandmother surprised the retained fire crews of Sudbury and Long Melford as they collected a Stars of Suffolk award last night.

The crews were nominated for the fire service award for the bravery and professionalism they showed when the devastating blaze ripped through Friars Street on Sunday, September 6, endangering lives and destroying historic buildings.

Mrs Deke was rescued from her flat as fire raged beneath her. 
 “Words fail me. You were so amazing,” she told the crews. “I didn’t realise how bad it was until I saw the videos the following day.

“To think I was nearly dead.

Rachael Jackson of Fred.Olsen with the fire crews from Sudbury and Long MelfordRachael Jackson of Fred.Olsen with the fire crews from Sudbury and Long Melford

“I could see my life flashing before me but I wasn’t thinking ‘I am going to perish in this building’ because I had complete trust in the firefighters.

“Thanks to these guys, I will get to see my grandchild grow up, and hopefully see many more from my children.”

Mrs Deke caught her leg on the ladder as she was rushed from the blaze, and sustained a burn but was otherwise unharmed.

Danny Forster, crew commander for Sudbury, said: “We could really feel the heat at that point, and we were wearing protective clothing.

Christina Deke thanked fire fighters for her lifeChristina Deke thanked fire fighters for her life

“We felt a rush and I nearly came off the ladder, luckily Christina grabbed me and the crews below were there for me.”

Scott Powell, crew commander of Long Melford, added: “It was a very rapid fire, we turned up and there was just a lot smoke and then it really went.

“We couldn’t believe how many people were there filming and taking photos on their phones, we were being watched from every angle and we could really feel the pressure.

“We just had to do what we are trained to do, and thankfully we had a good result.”

Mark Murphy interviews Christina Deke on stageMark Murphy interviews Christina Deke on stage

Mrs Deke said she was emotional about being reunited with the firefighters, who have also helped her in the wake of the fire, but added: “I had to come here and say thank you. You have to face your demons.”

Reading the nomination, Mark Murphy said: “Although a number of buildings sadly suffered very serious damage, the professionalism and bravery of the firefighters from Long Melford and Sudbury ensured there was no loss of life, and they also succeeded in preventing the flames from spreading even further.”

The crews were invited on stage to receive their award - and a prize of a meal at Milsoms for 10.

In a surprise twist, Mrs Deke was invited onto stage to thank the heroes who saved her on that unforgettable night.

Fifteen fire crews from across Suffolk were involved in fighting the blaze, which has had a lasting effect on Sudbury town centre with some stores still closed and others, including the bank, forced to relocate to temporary buildings.

• See Monday’s paper for our special eight-page supplement with details of each of the winners plus photos from the night.

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