Passerby saves elderly couple from Northern Ireland house fire
Homeowners urged to ensure fire ashes are cold and disposed of properly
A Co Down elderly couple managed to escape a potentially devastating fire with the help of a passerby.
Fire erupted at a shed at the couple's Moneyreagh home on Thursday morning.
The Fire Service said they believed it to be accidental with the source thought to be from ashes from the fire, which the resident thought were cold enough for the bin.
The resulting blaze ignited the shed and spread the oil tank, which held around 600 litres of oil.
Fire Service Station Commander Martin Healy said the early intervention of the passerby meant the couple were able to get out of their home to safety and the fire service on the scene sooner.
"Certainly had it been earlier, with not so much traffic, this could have been devastating," he said.
While most of the back of the property was destroyed, only minor damage was caused to the home.
Paramedics treated the couple at the scene, but they were not seriously injured. The husband was said to be shaken by the ordeal.
Mr Healy warned people of the dangers of hot ashes, particularly as winter sets in.
He said: "It takes just a bit of heat still in the ashes and then a few things are put on top of it and that heat builds.
"Ashes need to be cold, stored in a steel bin and put well away from combustibles.
"People need to make sure their fire alarm works and also to check on their neighbours.
"Ultimately the quick actions of the passerby saved these people and the fire crews helped prevent major damage."