A DUNFERMLINE firefighter "couldn't sleep for a week" after trying to tackle a devastating blaze that claimed the lives of hundreds of people.

Clara Kay, 38, was a volunteer firefighter in her native Paraguay when the tragedy unfolded at a supermarket in the capital, Asunción, in August 2004.

Rescuers had to move dead bodies to reach survivors and while 200 people managed to escape, 300 lives were lost and the mum-of-two is still haunted by the horrors and vivid memories of that day.

Clara, who is now a full-time firefighter living in Dunfermline, recalled: “I couldn’t sleep for a week – it was all I could see when I closed my eyes.

“I had only been volunteering for about a year and had never seen anything like it – it wasn’t anything I had trained for.

“The people who survived were underneath the dead and there were so many bodies, including some children.

“We had to move them to a temporary mortuary which was just horrific. We did get trauma counselling afterwards and that did help a bit.”

Clara left her South American homeland and her job as an educational psychologist and volunteer firefighter in 2009 after meeting her future husband, David.

But she had to try four times to land her dream job with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Clara said: “When I came to Scotland, I applied to join but I failed the bleep test – it was all so different from being a volunteer firefighter in Paraguay.

“It was easy to get into the Paraguayan service but I had a lot to learn here to get through the tough process.

“I was determined so I worked on every weakness which had been highlighted through previous attempts to get through. I went to college to improve my maths and I also improved my English.

“My husband is in the service so he gave me lots of encouragement and support.”

Clara, who also volunteers with the Coastguard, met David when he came over to Paraguay with volunteer organisation International Fire and Rescue Association (IFRA).

They dated for two years long-distance before deciding to get married and move to Fife.

She said: “It was hard leaving a job I loved and my friends and family but I love Scotland – especially the autumns and summers.

“This is my home now and I love it.

“Myself and David are on opposite shifts which is great for childcare. Sometimes we have to swap over in the car park when he starts his day shift and I come off night shift!

“We are still able to spend plenty of time together so it works well.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have launched a recruitment campaign and Clara said: “I would recommend a career as a firefighter because it is a very rewarding and fulfilling career.

“Faith, determination and hard work were key to my success. I honestly think it is the best job in the world.

“My kids are proud to say I am a firefighter and I am proud to be one.”

To find out more about a career in the fire service go to firescotland.gov.uk/work-with-us/wholetime-firefighter-recruitment.aspx.