ST Singaporean of the Year 2020: Senior who braved fire keeps kampung spirit burning

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Madam Lim Ee Chin, 81, came to her neighbours' rescue and helped them put out a fire in their Housing Board flat, despite being afraid of the flames.

SINGAPORE - When Madam Lim Ee Chin, 81, realised that her neighbour's flat was on fire, she rushed to help put it out without a second thought.

Alarmed by the billowing, acrid smoke and the sound of several loud explosions, she dragged buckets of water from her bathroom and passed them to her next-door neighbour Aisyah Villegas to put out the flames.

She never once considered her curved spine and heart trouble.

Speaking in Mandarin, Madam Lim said: "I was worried that if their house burnt down, they would have no place to stay."

She was also afraid the fire would spread to her flat.

Worried about Madam Lim's safety, her sister Loh Guet Wah, 68, who lives with her, said she tried to get her to leave the flat, but Madam Lim refused.

Both women are not married.

For her courage, Madam Lim is one of the nominees for The Straits Times Singaporean of the Year award this year.

The senior citizen was watching TV in the living room of her 12th-storey flat in Block 917 Jurong West Street 91 at about 11.20pm on Aug 9, when the fire broke out next door.

Madam Lim, with the help of other neighbours, put out most of the fire before firefighters from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived. After they left, she spent the next few hours mopping up her flat.

For her efforts, she became the oldest recipient of the SCDF Community First Responder Award on Aug 27. The award is given to members of the public who lend a hand to those in trouble.

SCDF, in a Facebook post on Sept 10, said: "Despite her age, she did not hesitate to help put out the fire... Madam Lim's action exemplified bravery and in her own words, the kampung spirit."

It added that her actions helped cut down on the damage and injuries caused by the fire.

Her neighbours showed their appreciation by giving her mooncakes and a patterned mask.

Since the blaze, three of the five people living in the flat that caught fire have moved out, and Madam Lim misses chatting with them in the corridor, where she often saw them, she said.

After working in a tin factory for 36 years, Madam Lim retired two years ago and now spends most of her time at home, going out mainly to buy food and visit the doctor.

For her efforts, Madam Lim Ee Chin became the oldest recipient of the SCDF Community First Responder Award. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Madam Loh, who does administrative work for an audit firm, said her mother adopted Madam Lim at a young age, but her sister did not change her surname.

Said Madam Loh: "When I am not feeling well, she will buy food for me. I'm vegetarian, so it's harder to find food I can eat, but she will go and look for it."

She said that when they were children, Madam Lim would take her and their other five siblings on excursions to places like Haw Par Villa and the Botanic Gardens.

"She helped to raise me," said Madam Loh.

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