MORE than £5,000 has been raised in less than a week for the funeral of Williton’s first women firefighter, described as “a ray of sunshine to everyone who knew and met her”.

When Erin Fairhead died on May 27 after a long battle with depression, former Williton fire station colleagues appealed on social media for well-wishers to show her husband Steve how much she was loved by contributing to her farewell fund.

They added: “With our help, Steve can give her the fondest of farewells and say goodbye to one of life’s best people.

“Originally the amount was set at £3,000 but that was met within 24 hours. The fund reached £5,300 in only five days, which is a testament to the impact Erin had on so many people.

“We have been blown away by the response, even though we knew how loved she was.”

Over 1,000 tributes poured in for 40-year-old Erin who made the headlines in 2016 when she became a Guinness world record holder by becoming the fastest woman to complete the London Marathon in full fire-fighter’s gear. The feat raised over £3,000 for charity.

A fire service spokesman said: “As a firefighter she showed dedication, professionalism and strength of character. Erin will be greatly missed and will always be a part of the fire service family.”

Friends have been remembering her “infectious enthusiasm” towards work and her “zest for life” which included open-water swimming. Recently she completed the hazardous swim across the Solent from Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.

A dedicated swimming teacher, Erin was a Swimsafe coach – a fire service initiative to teach youngsters to swim. She was also a close friend of Milverton-based Beth French, a record-breaking ocean swimmer, who set up the fund-raiser to help pay for the funeral and help friends share their memories of Erin.

She said: “It was a way for all of us to feel closer and come together to make a difference.”

Any excess money in the fund will go to Steve Fairhead’s choice of mental health and animal welfare charities.