Sunderland off-duty firefighter who rescued neighbour stresses importance of smoke detectors

An off-duty firefighter who rescued his neighbour from her burning home has highlighted the importance of having a working smoke detector.

Friday, 26th February 2021, 5:59 pm
Updated Friday, 26th February 2021, 6:00 pm

Chris Smith, based in Sunderland, was alerted to the blaze after hearing the alarm sounding and spotting ‘thick black smoke’ coming from the property.

Fortunately he was able to safely rescue the woman, but now his example has been highlighted by fire chiefs after figures showed more than half of all house fires in 2020 were in properties without a working smoke alarm.

“After rescuing my neighbour from the fire and making sure she was safe, I managed to put the fire out and stop it from spreading further, while also ringing 999,” the firefighter said in a video posted on the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) social media feeds.

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Chris Smith rescued his neigbour after hearing their alarm sounding

“I’m someone with 10 years of frontline experience and I would stress to members of the public, please don’t try to tackle a house fire on your own.

“Because of my expertise, experience and training, I was able to make a dynamic risk assessment, based on the information in front of me.

“Time was incredibly limited and I had to act fast – please don’t ignore a smoke alarm.”

The blaze, which happened in October 2020, was raised at a meeting of the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority’s Policy and Performance Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.

The incident and subsequent video was also referenced in a report for the panel, which highlighted a rise in accidental house fires between April and December 2020, compared to the previous year.

Official figures showed a third of these were in properties without a smoke detector, while a further 20 per cent were in homes with a fitted alarm which had not activated.

Dave Leach, area manager at the brigade, told the panel firefighter Smith’s video had been used in a recent campaign highlighting fire hazards in the home.

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