Belfast Telegraph

Hero dog comes to rescue of family of eight in west Belfast house fire

Fire service issue warning as home had no working smoke alarm

By Claire Williamson

Six children had a lucky escape from a house fire in west Belfast when their dog woke them up as it began barking.

Two adults and six children were inside the house on the Falls Road at the time and all managed to escape before the Fire Service arrived.

The fire started in one of the child's bedrooms from an extension lead plugged in behind her headboard in the early hours of Wednesday.

A mobile phone was plugged in and charging at the time.

The fire crept around her bed and was moments from setting alight her pillow and hair when their pet dog Gizmo began barking and woke her up.

She was able to jump out of bed and the whole family escaped to safety.

NIFRS Station Commander Kevin O'Neill said that while the mobile phone charging was not the cause of the fire in this incident, he warned people against it.

He said: "Whilst it is bad practice to do so, it wasn't the cause in this case.

"We recommend against charging mobile phones overnight."

Damage can be seen around the wall socket in the teenager's bedroom.

While there were smoke alarms fitted in the house, they were not working.

Mr O'Neill said there have been three fire deaths in Northern Ireland since the start of the year and that if it wasn't for the family dog he fears they would have been dealing with a tragedy today.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: "We are so grateful and relieved that we are not dealing with another fire death today with this young family and the six children that were in the house

"The fire itself was relatively small but it had produced a lot of smoke. There were no working smoke alarms in the house, there were smoke alarms present but they weren't working.

"The only thing that alerted the family in the house was the fact that their dog awakened, barked and woke up the people in the house."

He described how close the fire, which started behind a young girl's bed, was from setting alight a young girl's hair.

"The fire itself was an electrical fire and started in the plug that was in a socket right behind her headboard and the fire started in the plug, it crept up the base of the bed and alongside the matress.

"It was impinging right where she was sleeping - that's how close the fire was to her head.

"It was only because the dog wakened her that she was able to get up and escape otherwise I've no doubt the next thing that would have caught fire would have been the pillow and her hair."

He praised the family for not being tempted to re-enter their home once they made their escape.

"They evacuated out of the house, got into the car and waited on the fire service and never returned to the house," he added.

"That is positive and I would commend them for their actions in getting out and staying out and waiting on the fire and rescue service arriving.

"There is always that temptation and what we are trying to do is to reinforce the message to let us deal with the incident. If you were to re-enter there's the chance you could be overcome by the smoke so we want to emphasise the point that you get out and stay out."

Mr O'Neill once again urged people to ensure they had a working smoke alarm in their house and to test it regularly.

He said: "We would urge people that not everyone will be as fortunate and have a pet that can alert them. "

A Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service spokesperson said: "One female was treated at the scene for burns to her arm and we finished at the scene at 6:45am.

“The fire is being treated as accidental.”

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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