Spending �5 is a life or death matter

IRRESPONSIBLE families in Suffolk are putting their lives at risk - just for the sake of saving a fiver.

IRRESPONSIBLE families in Suffolk are putting their lives at risk - just for the sake of saving a fiver.

That was the grim warning from fire chiefs today who urged every household to fork out a meagre �4.99 for a fire alarm to ensure their home is protected.

Their clarion call came after the importance of alarms was perfectly illustrated in two potentially devastating blazes in Ipswich.

In one case, a young woman's life was saved thanks to neighbours hearing the alarm while she slept upstairs - unaware of the growing flames which threatened to engulf her home.

However, the house involved in the second fire was not fitted with an alarm and was severely damaged. Firefighters say it was pure luck that no one was inside - otherwise the blaze could have had tragic consequences.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the smoke alarm, a device which has saved tens of thousands of lives across the world.

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Referring to the first fire, in Gymnasium Street, Karl Rolfe, assistant divisional officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue, said: “A smoke alarm was critical and potentially saved a life.

“Smoke alarms have certainly saved lives when we have installed them before so we know they have an impact.

“They are instrumental in bringing down the number of fire deaths and injuries.

“It is the smoke that often kills people because of the toxic fumes.

“But there are still people who do not have them and we continue to try to convince them that for minimum expenditure, it's excellent insurance.”

In the early hours of Saturday morning, fire crews were called by a neighbour who had heard a smoke alarm at the house.

They were forced to break down the door where they discovered a fire in the kitchen before rescuing the young woman who was asleep in her bedroom.

The second fire, at a three-storey house in St Helen's Street on Saturday night, could have been lethal had the residents been at home, because it was left to rage without the warning of a fire alarm.

A neighbour saw smoke snaking out of the building by chance and alerted the fire service, who then arrived to find the hallway and stairs engulfed in flames. It is believed the occupants were on a night shift at work.

Simon Hurst, assistant divisional officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue, was one of those first at the scene.

He said: “The fire had destroyed the stairs, making access difficult. If there had been someone sleeping upstairs, it would not have been good.

“We are still finding that there are properties where people sleep that have no smoke alarms fitted - but they save lives.”

Has your life been saved by a smoke alarm? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

SHORTLY after midnight on Saturday, neighbours heard a fire alarm coming from a terraced property in Gymnasium Street.

Firefighters forced their way in and led the occupant, who had been asleep, to safety.

The shocked woman, who is from Poland and did not wished to be named, admitted through tears that she was lucky to be alive following the fire, which started in a kitchen bin containing cigarette ends.

She said: “I want to thank the firemen. There is smoke alarm in the house but I mustn't have heard it.

“The firemen had to break the door down to get in and then came to get me in my room where I was asleep. I thought it was a dream - or more like a nightmare.”

The woman's sister and brother-in-law own the house and had just finished decorating it to rent it out.

Although the fire was contained to one room, smoke damage has affected the downstairs area which will need to be completely re-painted.

Her sister said: “The bin is underneath the boiler and the fire could have ignited the boiler and then the whole house would have gone up.

“It is upsetting when you think about what could have happened.”

AT about 10.30pm on Saturday four fire crews from Princes Street and Colchester Road attended the three-storey house in St Helen's Street where they tackled a large blaze.

They extinguished the fire, which had completely destroyed the stairs, and stayed at the property for a couple of hours to ensure it was out.

Much of the downstairs and first floor was affected by smoke damage and the house had to be ventilated.

Fortunately, there was no one inside the property at the time.

Police tape cordoned off the scene while investigations took place and it was concluded that the fire was caused by an electrical extension cable overheating.

Mohammed Khan, one of the owners of the Al-Amin halal grocery store next door to the property, also owns the house.

He said a neighbour spotted the smoke and alerted the fire service.

Mr Khan added: “It is a bit of a shock but there is not a lot you can do about it.

“At the end of the day nobody was injured.”

The Fire Kills campaign's advice on staying safe from fire:

Fit and maintain a smoke alarm - you should have one on each level of your home. The ideal position is on the ceiling, in the middle of a room, or on the hallway and landing.

Don't put alarms in or near kitchens or bathrooms where smoke or steam can set them off by accident.

Test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can give you valuable time to get out, stay out and call 999.

For more information about smoke alarms or fire safety, call Suffolk's community fire safety department on 01473 260588.

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