Councillor Jackie Drayton had a narrow escape with a house fire that could have killed her. Jackie recalls:
“It was 2am and I was asleep in bed when my husband Ian, shouted ‘Jackie wake up!’ I sat up in bed, opened up my eyes and through a black mist, saw flames coming from a bedside cabinet and a cloud of black smoke hanging from the ceiling.
“Ian managed to put the flames out and luckily we both got out of the room coughing and spluttering, eyes streaming and in shock.
“The fire was started by a candle which had been left to burn on a bedside table and although it was in a candle holder, this melted as did a nearby alarm clock and lighter.The fire was inches away from the bed and bedclothes.
“As it was a warm night, the window had been left open, which let a lot of the smoke escape. Had the window been closed, I may not have been here to tell my story.
“The following morning, I returned to the bedroom and couldn’t believe my eyes.The walls of the room, all the furniture and our belongings were covered in thick black soot.The smell of smoke was still overpowering and made you choke.
“In the days after the fire, we had time to realise just how lucky we were. It could have been so different. It was upsetting to lose some irreplaceable items such as cards my children made me and a special photo of me with my parents. But the distress of losing treasured things is nothing when we could have lost our lives!
“I thought I was aware of safety issues and as my husband was a Health & Safety Officer for Yorkshire Water, who is used to carrying out risk assessments, we seemed unlikely to be victims of a fire.We had a smoke alarm on the landing outside the bedroom but it didn’t go off because the batteries were flat!”
Jackie now urges everyone to get in touch with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service for a free home fire risk assessment and smoke alarm. For Jackie, this could have so easily been a tragic event. She said:
“If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone… advice doesn’t cost anything and one day it could just save your life!”
Precautions you can take
Around 450 people die in needless house fires every year, around 13,000 are injured and countless homes and their contents are destroyed. But there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of a fire occurring.
Sheffield Central Fire Station manager, Dave Kiddy recommends fitting a smoke alarm as this gives you an early indication that a fire is starting. He said: “This allows you time to escape and call the Fire Service.”
The biggest causes of house fires are: chip pans, cigarettes, electrical faults and children playing with matches.
To reduce the risk of fire in your home:
• Regularly check your smoke alarm’s battery
• Never smoke in your bed
• Ensure cigarettes are fully extinguished
• Have an escape plan just in case a fire does break out
• Never leave candles burning unattended
• Replace your chip pan with a deep fat fryer
• Do not dry clothes on or near open/gas fires
• Do not overload electrical sockets
• Keep matches and lighters away from children
• Follow electrical appliance maker’s guidance for the safe use of their products
• Have a ‘bed-time routine’ and check everything is extinguished before you go to bed
by Naheem Hanif
This page is sponsored by South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service