A RELIEVED dad has urged everyone to install smoke alarms after he and his family escaped from a raging house fire, insisting: “If it wasn’t for the alarms, we wouldn’t be here.”
Zaheer Ahmed’s home in Whiston was wrecked, along with most of his possessions, when a living room blaze started in the living room on Sunday and swept through the home.
“Just 30 seconds after the alarms rang, there was smoke pouring from every window and door,” he said.
“We could easily have been trapped in there.”
The dad of three and his family will be homeless over Christmas as they are having to stay with relatives, such is the smoke and fire damage to their Renishaw Avenue home, and may not be able to move back for up to a year.
“The upstairs was smoke damaged and everything downstairs was burned,” he said.
“We’ve got nothing left except the clothes we left in. And we were only in our pyjamas because we were having a lazy Sunday.
“I’m told that the house will have to be stripped back to the brickwork. It could take up to a year.
“It was an awful experience, but that can all be replaced — at least we escaped with our lives.”
Mr Ahmed, whose wife was away, was having a lazy day at home with his children and three nephews and nieces — all aged between five and 13 — when the drama unfolded.
“We had all been drawing pictures in the living room, before the children went upstairs to play on their phones and tablets,” said the 35-year-old.
“My daughter took my youngest child and my nephew into one bedroom, while my son and two nephews were in another with me.
“My son said he could smell burning — suddenly the smoke alarm went off, so I went downstairs to see why.
“I opened the living room door and was hit with loads of black smoke so I shut it again and screamed for the children to get out of the house.”
The panicked family fled outside to escape the smoke and flames, before calling the fire brigade.
“By the time firefighters arrived, half of the house had been engulfed in flames.
Mr Ahmed had portable smoke alarms fitted five years ago, when South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue visited his home to do a free safety check.
And when an extension was built on his house, he followed advice to replace the battery-powered units with a mains-supplied system.
Investigators believe the blaze may have started when paper or soft furnishings got too close to a gas fire.
Mr Ahmed said he wanted to praise the fire service, who he said were “absolutely brilliant”, adding: “The British Red Cross also gave us lots of support, including some clothes to wear. Everyone did a really great job.
“But the message I would give to everyone is that smoke alarms are an absolute must.
“We all hear them go off when we’re cooking and think they’re a nuisance, but they could save your life.”
South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue offer free advice on buying, fitting and testing smoke alarms, and you can find more information or book a home safety check at www.syfire.gov.uk.