Fire engine

People in Lichfield and Burntwood are being reminded that planning how to get out of their homes in an emergency could be the difference between life and death.

The warning has come from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service after figures revealed that more than 740 accidental house fires had been recorded across the county in the past five years involving those aged over 45 who live alone.

In 13 of these cases, the fires proved to be fatal.

Phil Mulligan, from the fire service, said residents can quickly become disorientated when a blaze starts.

“Knowing how to safely get out of your home in the case of a fire can be the difference between life and death.

“Even the smallest of fires can escalate rapidly as it comes into contact with various items and materials in your household.

“Within minutes, the visibility in your home can vanish, and if you don’t know your way out, there’s a slim chance of you finding it while you are effectively blindfolded.”

Phil Mulligan, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

A video, captured in the service’s specialist smokehouse facility, demonstrates the difficulty of attempting to exit a smoke-logged flat.

“As you can see, the importance of knowing your property and the different routes you can escape a fire is essential for your own safety.

“If you can gauge where you are by referencing objects and rooms, like a table or sofas, you can begin to visualise a plan as to the closest point of exit.”

“This is why it is vital for everyone to ensure you are aware of the objects and layout of your home.

“If you can tell where you are by feeling with your hands and feet, you stand a better chance of getting out alive.”

Phil Mulligan, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

Phil, who has over 20 years of experience in dealing with the most severe house fires, now teaches firefighters how to navigate the disorientating environment.

He said that while crews will be able to tackle blazes and seek to rescue anyone trapped, people should know what steps to take should a fire start in their homes.

“If possible, keep the doors within your exit route closed to prevent potential toxic fumes from spreading to all areas of the property and disabling your exit routes.

“If your smoke alarms are tested regularly and working, you know your exit routes and you take extra precautions when handling anything that has the potential to cause fire, you are helping to protect yourselves and others from the devastating consequences fire can have.

“Those who live alone are at a higher risk, so it’s important that the community and the service each do their part to ensure we protect and prevent each other from falling victim to fire in the home.”

Phil Mulligan, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service

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