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Early detection and quick action saves lives

17-year-old rescued from house fire thanks to working smoke alarm, lifesaving advice from call handler and quick actions of firefighters

Smoke alarm

On Tuesday evening (2 August 2022) Thames Valley Fire Control Service received a call from a woman reporting that a fire had broken out in her living room. She had been alerted to the fire by her smoke alarm sounding and was trapped by the smoke in her first-floor bedroom.

Two appliances and crews from Amersham Fire Station and one from Chesham Fire Station attended, with the first pump arriving within four minutes of the call coming in.

The Control Operator provided the woman with lifesaving advice and remained in contact with her until she was rescued by the firefighters wearing breathing apparatus.

The seamless sharing of information between the control room and crews meant they were able to act quickly to rescue the woman.

Thames Valley Control Room

Thames Valley Control Room

Station Commander Dave Tubbs said:

“The information that was relayed to the crew from the control room, while they travelled to the incident, was invaluable and enabled them to quickly gain access to the property and rescue the woman using the internal staircase.”

With the woman, a cat, and a kitten safely out of the building, the firefighters focussed on extinguishing the fire using two sets of breathing apparatus and one hose reel jet.

The woman was treated for the effects of breathing in smoke. She was initially cared for by the firefighters before they handed her into the care of South Central Ambulance Service.

The crews were also able to offer oxygen therapy to the kitten, using an animal oxygen kit. The cat was uninjured.

Animal oxygen kit

Animal oxygen kit

The fire is believed to have been started by the playful kitten pulling down curtain material, onto an exposed halogen light, and catching fire.

Station Commander Dave Tubbs added:

“This incident really brings home the importance of having working smoke alarms, in the right places, in your home. Thanks to the great efforts of all involved the woman suffered only minor effects of smoke inhalation.

“The outcome of this incident may not have been so positive if the young women hadn’t been alerted so early on.  It is also a reminder to make sure loose, flammable, materials are not close to hot electrical items or candles.”



  • You should have a working smoke alarm, one on every level of the building, ideally in the hallway and on the landing from where the sound will travel to all rooms.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month. If you cannot reach them yourself even when using a broom handle, ask a visitor, friend or neighbour to help you
  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years as the sensors in them will become less sensitive over time
  • If your smoke alarms have removable batteries, change the batteries every year. Only take a battery out when you need to replace it

For more advice on how to keep your family and home #firesafe visit our Safety Advice Hub Safety Advice Hub – Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service (

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