A Carrickfergus man has told of his ‘lucky escape’ after an everyday household appliance caused an overnight fire at his home.
When Lindsay Davison and his wife Joan woke abruptly in the early hours of June 1 to the piercing sound of their smoke alarm, they had no idea that running their dishwasher while they slept had potentially put their lives at risk.
This Fire Safety Week (October 3-9), the retired teacher is sharing his lesson in fire safety and supporting Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) in raising awareness about the causes of accidental fires in the home.
In the last three years, 26 percent of all fires in the home were caused by electrical appliances and electricity supply.
Running electrical appliances overnight is putting householders across Northern Ireland at unnecessary extra risk of fire, as Mr Davison explains: “It had been a normal evening. I programmed the dishwasher to come on in the early hours of the morning - like I’d done for many years. I’d never considered the dishwasher a fire hazard.
“I turned off all the plugs and closed all the doors in my home as part of our usual night-time fire safety routine. I thought I was doing all I could to protect my family and home from fire.”
I have undoubtedly learnt a very hard lesson about using electrical appliances at night timeLindsay Davison
After wakening to the sound of their smoke alarm, the dazed couple encountered a hallway full of thick black smoke and the kitchen ablaze.
Closing the door to contain the fire, they immediately ran outside and dialled 999 for help.
Minutes later, fire crews from Carrickfergus and Glengormley Fire Stations arrived at the detached property and dealt with an accidental fire in the kitchen which had started in their dishwasher.
The kitchen was destroyed in the fire and smoke caused damage throughout the house.
The couple were shocked but uninjured from the incident.
“My first thought was ‘get out, stay out, and get the fire service out,’” explains Mr Davison. “I could not believe that my house was on fire; I never thought it would happen to me.
“I’m just so thankful that our smoke alarm was working as it alerted us to the fire around 6.20am, giving us time to escape and raise the alarm.
“Our night-time fire safety routine helped contain the fire within the kitchen – but it didn’t go far enough. I dread to think what could have happened – we may not have had the chance to escape as it was early morning.”
Mr Davison added: “I have undoubtedly learnt a very hard lesson about using electrical appliances at night time. We were extremely lucky on this occasion and I want to warn people to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen to another family. My advice this Fire Safety Week is never use your dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer or indeed any electrical appliance overnight and never leave them running when you leave the house. Your timesaving endeavour may end up costing you your home, or worse, your life.
“The firefighters from Carrickfergus and Glengormely Fire Stations responded quickly and did a superb job in dealing with the fire and preventing it from spreading to other parts of our home. We owe a lot of gratitude to the NIFRS and commend them for the work that they do in responding to emergencies and keeping people safe.
“After our lucky escape I would urge everyone to take personal responsibility when it comes to fire safety and do all we can to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place. You may think it won’t happen to you but as I have learnt, it can happen to anyone.”
Alan Walmsley, assistant chief fire officer, NIFRS said: “Thankfully Lindsay and Joan were able to escape relatively unscathed but as their experience has shown, we should not under estimate the risk of running electrical appliances overnight.
“Electrical fires, caused by faulty wiring and home appliances, are the second biggest cause of accidental house fires in the last three years.
“In addition to taking basic fire safety precautions, we are encouraging people to register their appliances for a safer home on www.registermyappliance.org.uk – this will enable manufacturers to contact you directly if a safety repair or recall on your appliance is needed.
“Regardless of the cause, the majority of accidental fires in the home can be avoided with the correct fire safety precautions and preventions in place. However when a fire does occur, like Lindsay and Joan’s experience has shown, a working smoke alarm is crucial in alerting people to the earliest stage of the fire.
“In the last three years, in 15 percent of house fires we attended there was no smoke alarm or the smoke alarm was not working. This Fire Safety Week we are reminding everyone about basic fire safety advice and the importance of a working smoke alarm to help ‘STOP Fire’.”
The top three causes of 2664 accidental house fires in last three financial years were cooking and cooking appliances (1052 fires, 39.49 percent); electrics and electrical equipment (700 fires, 26.28 percent), and smoking-related incidents (213 fires, 8 percent).