Tonight's [Nov 4] Spirit of Fire Awards 2011 celebrates those people within the fire sector who have shown outstanding dedication and bravery over the past 12 months.

One of the most inspirational categories is the Fire Fighters Charity Supporter of the Year award, given to an individual who has used their own, often painful, experience with the Service and turned it into a positive.

Erin McNeill, one of four nominees in that category, went from suffering 45 per cent burns to appearing on national TV this year, raising over £60,000 for The Fire Fighters along the way.

Here, in a FIRE special feature, she tells her story:

"I'm Erin McNeill, I'm 21 years of age from Clackmannanshire, Central Scotland. 2 years ago on the 15th February 2009 I was badly burned in a house fire.

I sustained 45 per cent burns to my body and suffered many complications. I spent seven weeks in a coma in the Intensive Care Unit in Glasgow Royal Infirmary, where I contracted MRSA and ended up with Acute Organ Failure.

Once stabilised and brought round, I was transferred to the Burns Unit where I spent a further six-seven months.  During that time I had to learn to stand, walk, talk, eat, drink and learn to bend and use my limbs again. Safe to say it was not the most easiest of journeys.

Before the fire I was a professional singer and the biggest loss was my voice. Till this day it's still very upsetting but I have a new life now.

Once I was released from GRI in Aug 2009, I began to think of what I could give back to those who ultimately saved my life. In February 2010 my family held a party to celebrate my survival and on the night we raised £7000 and so in March 2010 I was happy to donate £3000 to the Firefighters Charity and the rest to the Burns and Intensive Care units.

From then on I caught the fundraising bug and I wanted to focus on just one charity or cause I felt strong about, this being the Firefighters Charity.

I knew so many people had helped me along the way but if Alloa Fire Service hadn't attended and got me out the burning building when they did I wouldn't be here. I owe my life to them.

In May I took part in the Ladies Driving Challenge in Errol, Perthshire and raised more funds for the Fire Fighters Charity but I wanted to set myself a personal challenge while raising money at the same time so I registered for the Tunnel to Towers Run, in New York City.

It's a run/walk in memory of the 343 Firefighters that died on 9/11. It was a personal challenge because I struggle in the heat but I completed the race in 55min 36sec and raised a phenomenal £5200.

Then in October my sister Karen & I made an appearance on national TV on the quiz show Holding Out For A Hero, hosted by Gethin Jones.

My sister nominated me as the hero and played to win money for the charity closest to my heart, The Firefighters Charity and as many of you may have seen we came away with an amazing £53,000.

So at the moment everything is a bit of a whirlwind as I'm trying to let it hit home but at the same time I'm very pleased to be nominated for the Supporter of the Year category at the Spirit of Fire Awards. Fingers crossed!

To date, we have raised nearly £65,000 and I'm now a volunteer with Central Scotland Fire & Rescue Community Fire Safety and I absolutely love it.

My dream is to work in the fire service and if I can accomplish all this, I have high hopes and I'm determined to work with the fire service, help the community and try and prevent others going through what Ive been through as its been nearly three years and I still attend hospital for many different reasons. 

But out of something so bad, I've made it so good."





Photos: top-Erin in her lifesaving sharkskin (courtesy @ErinMcNeill1) middle-Erin promoting The Fire Fighters Charity (courtesy Jan Van Der Merwe) bottom & front-Erin on ITV's Holding Out For A Hero with sister Karen and host Gethin Jones (courtesy 

Watch Erin's appearance on Holding Out For A Hero
Check out week for full coverage of the Spirit of Fire Awards including videos and interviews with the winners.

Posted on November 03 2011 at 1730 by