When Madam Lim Ee Chin saw black smoke billowing out from the front door of the Housing Board flat next to hers, the 81-year-old's first thought was not of her own safety but that of her neighbours.
Madam Lim immediately filled a pail with water in her bathroom, dragged it across her living room floor to her front gate and passed it to her frantic neighbour, who had run out of his house to seek help in putting out the fire.
"Of course I had to help. When I saw their house burning, it hurt my heart. They didn't set the fire on purpose. What if they have no house to live in?" said Madam Lim, in Mandarin, when The Straits Times visited her last night.
On the night of Aug 9, Madam Lim had been watching television in the living room of her 12th-storey flat in Block 917 Jurong West Street 91 when she saw the smoke and heard her neighbour's cry for help.
For her bravery, she received the Community First Responder Award on Aug 27, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said in a Facebook post yesterday.
Madam Lim is the oldest recipient of the award, which is presented to members of the public who have stepped forward to render assistance to others in distress or to save property or both.
"My other worry was whether the fire would get bigger before the firefighters came, but thankfully it didn't," she said.
Madam Lim, who has a curved spine and heart issues, could not recall how many pails of water she fetched that night, but "it felt like an hour that would never end".
Her 68-year-old sister, who lives in the same flat, called the SCDF. Both women are not married.
The flames were almost out by the time SCDF personnel arrived on the scene.
After the SCDF left, Madam Lim spent the next two hours - well past midnight - mopping up the wet living room floor of her flat.
It was a memorable National Day, joked Madam Lim.
Said the SCDF: "Despite her age, she did not hesitate to help put out the fire.
"Her selfless act assisted in mitigating the damages and injuries caused by the fire."
Two other neighbours also helped in extinguishing the fire but the SCDF said they did not wish to be named and declined the award.
The fire involved contents of the living room, said the SCDF.
In its aftermath, three people were taken to Singapore General Hospital.
SCDF commended Madam Lim for her selflessness, noting that the instinct for many people would be to get away from the fire instead of rendering help like she did.
"Madam Lim's action exemplified bravery and, in her own words, the kampung spirit", SCDF added.
On receiving the award, Madam Lim said she only reluctantly accepted it as she does not view her actions as "anything special" but "it's what neighbours do".
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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