Smoke alarm message in twin demo blazes

Residents watch in a haze of smoke as fire crews arrive at the dramatic scene put on by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service
13th August, 2010

Hundreds of Shropshire residents witnessed at first hand how quickly a family could be trapped by fire in their own home.

Actors played the roles of panicked householders as smoke filled a house on a busy Telford housing estate in less than two minutes in a dramatic recreation organised by Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service to educate the public about the need for working smoke alarms.

Neighbours lined the streets to watch two scenarios involving a house fire. They clearly saw how householders first escaped unscathed because they had been alerted by a working smoke alarm.

In a re-run of the exercise they then experienced how the lack of a working smoke alarm led to a dramatic rescue operation as smoke quickly filled the three bedroomed semi.
Residents were able to compare the dual scenes as they saw the family’s obvious panic and distress when they were rescued by firefighters as smoke quickly spread and billowed throughout the property.

Woman is helped by firefighters from house with smoke pouring out of the door

A woman actor escapes from the smoke filled house

Three volunteers were plucked from the crowd to show how easy an escape from a house fire can be if they have a working smoke alarm and close their doors at night.

The housing estate had been deliberately targeted for the exercise because of a high number of property fires. Residents later said the demonstration had been “an eye-opener.”

“I thought it was brilliant. I have one child and it was good to show how quickly smoke can get through the house. I never thought it could spread that quickly,” said Natasha Burns (27).

During the reconstruction, volunteer Becky Binding (22) said she now understood how people could be overwhelmed by smoke.

The exercise was a graphic demonstration of the devastating impact of fire and smoke in people’s homes and the crucial importance of having a working smoke alarm, said Deputy Chief Fire Officer John Redmond.

“It was particularly pleasing to see the number of local residents who turned out to watch the event and get involved with all the different agencies at the scene.”

Photo taken in the street, emergency services in foreground, crowd to rear

A TV news cameraman films the action broadcast later in the day on Central News

Mr Redmond praised the agencies which helped Shropshire firefighters to put on the display including West Mercia Police, Shropshire Ambulance Service, Wrekin Housing Trust, Telford and Wrekin Council, district and parish councillors. Concept Smoke Systems also donated their time and equipment to help make the event as realistic as possible.

Similar events are now planned for other areas of Shropshire where there are high incidents of house fires.

Ian Leigh, watch manager at Wellington Fire Station, said: “It all went very well and we are very pleased with the response from the local people. I think we were able to put across the dangers of a fire and the importance of having a working smoke alarm and of things like closing doors at night-time.”

The fire prevention initiative is believed to be one of the first of its kind to take place in a house in the centre of a busy housing estate.