CLOSE friends and family members have paid tribute to a ‘generous’ and ‘cheerful’ young mother who died in a house fire at her Westbourne home on Saturday morning.
The woman has been formally identified as 29-year-old Gemma Bishop, a former Chichester High School for Girls pupil.
Witnesses said Gemma cried out for help from the first-floor window as the smoke billowed around her.
Despite the heroic efforts of one man, who, according to an eye witness, rushed to Gemma’s aid, she died at the scene.
“I saw a man running to the house,” said a neighbour in Edgell Road, who did not want to be named.
“That was before the fire engines got here. Smoke was billowing out of the building. He was very brave.”
Another neighbour climbed in to a cherry picker to reach the first floor but his efforts were hampered by the smoke and heat.
Louise Jacobs, 28, who lives across the street, said: “We’ve known each since we were at Chichester High School together, and recently she’s been working with my mum, so she’s always around here, popping in and out for a coffee.
“She has been a good friend for years, she was so bubbly, really sweet. She wouldn’t hurt a fly.
“She was lovely. I can’t believe this has happened. Both our mums have grand mal epilepsy and we were in the same form at school, so we bonded over that, really.”
Another neighbour, who didn’t want to be named, said: “We pulled up in the car just as the fire engines arrived. There were loads of them. There were plumes and plumes of smoke coming from the house. It was awful.”
A Facebook page set up remember Gemma has seen tributes pouring in.
One comment from her family reads: “We would like to thank everyone for their lovely wishes. Gemma was loved and cared for so much by so many people. Just wished she believed it. Miss you so much its unbelievable.”
Friend Elaine Terry, said: “I shall never forget your giggle and the smiles you gave so generously.”
Tim Willway, assistant head teacher at Chichester High School for Girls also remembered the former pupil.
“Gemma joined us in 1995 and was with us until 2000 when she left after taking her GCSEs.
“Her form tutor described her as cheerful, outgoing and friendly. She was a really pleasant member of the form group, and particularly enjoyed and excelled in her drama lessons.
“She related well to young children and worked well with them, having completed a work experience placement when she was at school.
“Gemma gave us her best while she was at Chichester High School for Girls, and we are very sorry to hear the news.”
A spokesman for Sussex Police said: “Police are treating the death as unexplained and are not looking for anyone else in relation to this incident.”
The coroner’s officer has been informed.