Dave Amiet from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service carried out a Home Safety Visit in June 2014 in Lewes - a visit which helped prevent a fire. He described what happened: 'I fitted a smoke alarm in the attic room. The room is only used when the occupiers' daughter or visitors stay. Whilst in the room we noticed the burn mark on material near a window. If I had not carried out a Home Safety Visit that day the occupier may have lost the top floor of her house.”
It's believed a glass souvenir had reflected sunshine onto the material, acting as a magnifying glass and scorching the fabric.
Fiona, who lives in the house, said 'I was puzzled. At first I wondered whether my daughter had been burning a candle without my knowledge. Then I realised that the scorch marks were only on one layer of the material. It reminded me of using a magnifying glass in the sun to burn holes in paper.
I looked at the nearby window sill and realised that there was an upturned glass about 2 feet away from the scorch marks. It dawned on me that the summer sun had been streaming through the window all day long. I asked Dave whether it was possible for the sun to shine through a double glazed window, through the glass and burn the material. He confirmed that this was what must have happened.
I was shocked that the material had been smouldering - and we had no idea that this had been going on. I realised that the material could have caught fire, and very quickly spread to set the whole roof space alight. We would not have known until it was too late. The fire would also have spread into our neighbour's roof space - which is a child's bedroom.
I could not believe that one ornament had the potential to cause so much damage - including loss of life. We were very lucky that I had decided to ask for our fire alarms to be checked.”
She says she has learnt some useful tips to keep their home safe.
'I have taken the ornaments off south facing window sills. Our smoke alarms were out of date and we did not have enough. We now switch off all electrical sockets at night. I have removed a multi socket adaptor from our kitchen. We shut downstairs doors at night. I removed aerosols from under our boiler. I bought and installed a carbon monoxide alarm”
She is thankful for the visit, advice and new smoke alarms: 'I think that it is well worth the time and money. Preventing fires is infinitely better than being called out to find people's homes and possessions being destroyed and people suffering from serious, life-threatening injury. Fires can start in all types of buildings: new and old. Smoke alarms save lives.”