Smoke alarms save couple after fire in flat

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A COUPLE fled for their lives after waking up to find thick black smoke pouring through their Sunderland home.

Brent and Helen Sowerby told how they might not be alive today had it not been for smoke alarms fitted in their Hendon home just weeks earlier.

Brent, 36, said: “As I opened the bedroom door I had difficulty breathing.

“I came into the hallway and it was filling up with thick dark smoke which seemed to be pouring out of the bathroom.”

Luckily the couple, who have been married for six years, were alerted by smoke alarms which Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service had fitted early last month.

Brent added: “We dread to think what could have happened if we had not had working smoke alarms.”

The youth worker said it was about 2am when he was woken up by the sound of the smoke alarms beeping.

He said: “It was quite a shock to hear them going off, but thank goodness they did.”

Fighting his way through the darkness, Brent managed to pinpoint the source of the fire from a newly-installed heated towel rail.

He said: “I just went into autopilot and managed to switch off the power to the rail.”

The couple then fled their Gray Court home as the fire brigade was called.

Station manager Ian Warne said without smoke alarms, the outcome of the blaze could have been deadly.

“Worse-case scenario, we could have been dealing with two fatalities,” he said.

“The chances are they would not have woken up.

“They have been very lucky and it could have easily ended in tragedy had they not had a working smoke alarm.

“I would urge everyone to switch off and unplug all electrical appliances before going to bed.

“I would also ask anyone who has not got a smoke alarm to get one quickly and test it weekly.

“Working smoke alarms give people vital minutes to escape and it really can mean the difference between life and death.

“If we hadn’t fitted the smoke alarms for Brent and Helen, they may not have been around today, and that’s the shocking reality.”

Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service offers free home safety checks to the more vulnerable members of the community and will fit free smoke alarms where necessary.

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A MAN died in a fire at a house in Millfield, where it was later revealed no smoke alarms were fitted.

Michael Wilkinson, 46, was found in the bedroom of the mid-terraced cottage in Washington Street in May.

Group manager John Allison, from Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, told an inquest that the property was not fitted with smoke alarms.

He added: “There had been smoke detector in the vicinity, but there was no evidence of that on the night.

“We spoke to the letting agent and they confirmed that the premises were last refurbished in 2008 and there was one there then, but there was no evidence of one on the night.

“He had in the past taken smoke detectors down because he did not like them going off.

“The chances of survival in a fire vastly increase if you have a smoke alarm in the premises.”