Family trapped by fire in a stark demo by the fire service

Firefighters regularly visit Shropshire householders to give fire safety advice especially on the urgency of having working smoke alarms.
13th July, 2010

A family is trapped when fire breaks out in their home because they didn’t have a working smoke alarm – that is the stark message for Shropshire householders in an eye-catching demonstration of a house fire.

Actors will recreate the family’s panic while smoke fills the three-bedroomed semi of an empty Wrekin Housing Trust property in less than two minutes in the drama due to unfold on July 29.

Firefighters deliberately chose a Telford housing estate in Donnington – an area hit by a high number of property fires – to highlight that most people have a smoke alarm but only a small number test they work properly.

“People are unaware that you are more than twice as likely to die in an accidental house fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm,” said organiser Ian Leigh, Blue Watch Manager who has co-ordinated the unique Shropshire event with the help of the Donnington Partnership, including police, Wrekin Housing Trust, residents and Telford & Wrekin Council.

“We aim to help people understand the dangers and consequences of not having a working smoke alarm by showing what happens when you do have a working smoke alarm and then comparing it to a home without one.”

Firefighters and ambulance will arrive at the scene in Park Road at around 6pm as smoke billows out of the windows with actors, who regularly help in training exercises for the emergency services, rescued blackened and choking from the home while paramedics attempt to resuscitate a child actor. A sharp comparison will be made with the same family earlier escaping unhurt from the same premises alerted by the alarm which detects the smoke in time for them to get out safely.

Constable Nikki Scott of the Local Policing Team said: "This will be an excellent way of educating residents in the Donnington area on the need for smoke detectors in the home and also help target anti social behaviour and fire setting which sometimes occur in the area.

House fires across the county have reduced considerably since Shropshire firefighters initiated a pioneering scheme a decade ago to promote smoke detectors in county homes. They were among the first fire and rescue services in the UK to do so. Since their campaign, thousands of Shropshire homes now have them installed – but not enough check them regularly to ensure they work.

“Having a smoke detector is one thing, making sure it works is another. It is difficult to get over the nature of a house fire and how quickly smoke spreads and just how important it is to get out quickly. In this demonstration we aim to show just that,” added the firefighter.

The fire and rescue service’s Outreach education vehicle will be at the scene to give information to residents after the event including advice on testing smoke alarms weekly.

Statistics for Shropshire reveal that about 67 per cent of homes have a smoke alarm installed but the number of non working detectors rose last year from 12 to 20 per cent.

Three roads with access to a section of Park Road will be closed to vehicles between 5.45 and 8pm on the day.