Quick-thinking Rebecca Little saved her family home after faulty Christmas tree lights burst into flames.
Linda Brown, 30, had popped out after decorating the tree at the family home in Concord, Washington, she shares with partner Wayne Little, 36, and children Chloe (13), Rebecca (12), Abbie, (10), Jack (five), and three-year-old Jayden.
Rebecca was in her bedroom when the smoke alarm sounded and she saw smoke coming from the living room. She quickly shut the door to the living room and rang 999 and her mum.
“The tree is quite new and has hardly been used so I was so shocked that the fire happened," said Linda.
"The lights hadn’t been on very long so they hadn’t even overheated. There was some smoke damage to the living room but luckily, we’ve been able to decorate it just in time for Christmas.
"It could have been so much worse.”
Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service Area Manager for Community Safety Kevin Gardner, said: “The hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations can often push fire safety to the back of our minds.
"But, in reality, the start of festive celebrations brings a whole cocktail of fire risks into the home. From the faulty lights we have seen at this incident to the increase in flammable decorations, use of candles, overloaded electrical sockets, distractions of a crowded house and slower reaction times that result from alcohol consumption all increase the risk of fire.
“Christmas is a time for celebrating with family and friends, and we want to keep it that way. By being aware of the risks and making a few simple checks you can ensure that you and your loved ones can celebrate in safety.”
A Christmas video from the Fire Kills campaign, available at www.twfire.gov.uk/christmas, shows in graphic detail just how fast a fire caused by faulty decorations can take hold and emphasises the vital importance of planning an escape route. Make sure you have working smoke alarms and your guests know how to get out, stay out and call 999.
Here are some top tips to help you celebrate safely this festive season:
• Ensure you switch off fairy lights and unplug them before you go to bed or leave the house. Check your Christmas tree lights conform to the British Standard (BS EN 60598).
• Ensure you have a working smoke alarm installed on all levels of your home. A working smoke alarm can give you the vital time needed to escape in a fire. Test your smoke alarms regularly and never remove batteries to power presents!
• Never leave cooking unattended. The majority of fires start in the kitchen so this is a high risk area. Avoid cooking whilst under the influence of alcohol and always turn off kitchen appliances when you have finished cooking.
• Never leave candles unattended. Keep candles out of the reach of children, and away from decorations, cards and wrapping paper, fires, lights and heaters.
• Check on older relatives and neighbours this Christmas to ensure their safety as they are at greater risk from fire.
• Put your cigarette out, right out. Make sure your cigarette is fully extinguished and take care when drunk or tired. It’s very easy to fall asleep while your cigarette is still burning and set furniture alight.
• Don’t overload sockets - ensure only one plug per socket. Always turn off plugs when they are not in use, except those that are designed to be left on, like freezers.
• Always use an RCD (residual current device) on outdoor electrical equipment. This safety device can save lives by instantly switching off the power if there is a fault and can be found in any DIY store.
Make sure that everyone in your home knows what to do in a fire - in the event of fire: get out, stay out and call 999.
For more information on stay safe from fire please visit www.twfire.gov.uk or www.facebook.com/twfrs, www.twitter.com/tyne_wear_frs www.facebook.com/firekills.