A PERMANENT memorial has been provided to two children who died in a house fire.

Benches have been installed at Keighley’s Lund Park, within a stone’s throw of the family home where the tragic youngsters lost their lives.

Sisters Sylvia Johnson, ten, and four-year-old Carrie Ann Smith both perished in the blaze when it ripped through the property in Broomhill Walk in April, 1983.

Now the children will be forever remembered in the park where they used to play.

The benches are alongside a memorial – unveiled earlier this year – to Keighley firefighter Jeff Naylor, who died after being badly injured battling to save the siblings.

Efforts to provide a lasting tribute to the girls were instigated by their sister, Laura Johnson.

Laura – then just six years old – was pulled from the burning house, and survived together with another sister, Evlyne, baby brother Michael and their mum and stepfather.

Following the installation of the Jeff Naylor memorial, Laura approached Keighley Town Council and spoke to the Fire Brigades Union about the possibility of a tribute bench to her sisters.

Town councillor Mick Dowse, who knew Sylvia, offered through his company – MD Fencing – to sponsor two benches. And Cllr John Kirby, chairman of the allotments and landscapes committee, helped facilitate the installation. Approval to site the benches in the park was given by Bradford Council.

Mother-of-three Laura, who now lives in Barnoldswick, said she was overwhelmed by the response.

“Everybody has been amazing – so supportive and kind – and I can’t thank them enough,” she said.

“The benches look wonderful and I felt really emotional when I saw them.

“It means such a lot to myself and other family members that Sylvia and Carrie Ann’s memory will always live on through the benches, and it is fitting that they are next to the memorial to Jeff – it is thanks to his courage and that of his colleagues that we survived.”

Around 30 people attended an unveiling ceremony.

The Rev Tracey Raistrick – from St John’s Church at Ingrow – led prayers and performed a blessing, and speeches were given.

Those present included current firefighters and some who were on duty on the night of the tragedy.

Councillors, including town mayor Peter Corkindale, also attended.

“It was an extremely moving occasion and I shed tears but it was very lovely,” said Laura.

“Myself and Sylvia were particularly close, she was my big sister. We used to play together in the park.

“Years may pass, but the emotional pain of losing her and Carrie Ann doesn’t go away. It never will.”

Cllr Corkindale said a number of people were involved in helping to bring the benches project to fruition.

“When Laura approached us we were keen as a town council to do what we could and I’m delighted that we were able to broker something,” he added. “Mick generously offered through his company to fund them, John Kirby did a lot of work and others such as the Fire Brigades Union and Bradford Council were supportive.

“I am pleased for the family that the benches are in place. Hopefully it will help in a way to bring some closure for them.

“It’s appropriate that the benches are alongside the memorial to Jeff. It is extremely important to ensure that people like him, and all those who give their lives in the line of duty to help others, are remembered. This area of the park is now a fitting memorial to Jeff and the girls.”