THE mother of a South Shields family of three who escaped a house fire says they owe their lives to smoke alarms.
Denise Bracewell, 36, was at home in Wenlock Road, Simonside, on Wednesday night with her daughter Abbie, 14, and sons Callum, 12, and Ronan, four, their pet dog Mojo and cat Rosie, when their alarms went off.
“I was looking forward to a nice quiet night in, watching a movie when the smoke alarms went off,” she said.
“I had a look around and could smell smoke when I got upstairs. I opened my sons’ bedroom door and saw the quilt on fire.
Mrs Bracewell closed the door and got everyone out of the house, and her daughter called 999.
The mum and a neighbour also called the fire brigade, and she then tried to put the fire out herself with a bucket of water.
However, on re-entering the room she struggled to breathe or see, as the fire had spread so quickly, and she was forced to flee.
Two fire appliances from South Shields fire station and another from Hebburn attended and put the fire out.
Mrs Bracewell said: “I couldn’t believe how much it had spread in such a short space of time. It was frightening and I was totally shocked. You just panic.
“I just can’t thank the fire service enough. They were brilliant, so sympathetic and re-assuring.”
The fire was started accidentally with a cigarette lighter, and the boys’ bedroom was severely damaged, with the rest of the upstairs suffering smoke damage.
“I’d completely re-decorated the boys’ room before Christmas, and now it’s totally destroyed,” added Mrs Bracewell.
“But if I hadn’t closed the door I bet the whole of the top floor would have gone. We are just so lucky.
“It was such a shock. If we hadn’t had smoke alarms to alert us, well it could - no it would - have been a hell of a lot worse. I just dread to think what would have happened.”
Bill Forster, the fire brigade’s district manager for South Tyneside, said: “I’d like to commend Denise for closing the door to the room where the fire was to stop it spreading, and quickly getting everyone safely out of the house before calling the fire and rescue service.
“Our advice is not to tackle the fire yourself but to get out, stay out and call us out.
“I hope this encourages other householders and landlords to make sure their homes are fitted with smoke alarms, and that they are tested on a regular basis. As this case proves, they really are life-savers.”
* Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service provides free Home Safety Checks, including fitting free smoke alarms, to those most at risk of having a fire.
For more information on staying safe from fire, visit www.twfire.gov.uk, www.facebook.com/twfrs, or www.twitter.com/tyne_wear_frs www.facebook.com/firekills.