Update: Narrow escape for family in Southery house fire, near Downham Market.

Smoke alarm batteries failed as family slept as blaze took hold at Norfolk home

A family of four had a narrow escape from their Southery home when the battery on their smoke alarm failed and they had to be rescued by the fire service.

The house at Campsey Road was filling with smoke which finally woke the family of four when control room staff took a 999 call in the early hours of yesterday morning.

The mother and one of two young children were rescued from a first-floor bedroom at the house which was severely damaged by the blaze.

Andy Dungar, control room manager at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: 'When the call came into our control room it quickly became apparently a young family were trapped in a first floor bedroom and the house was rapidly filling with smoke.

'There was obviously a great deal of distress, panic and confusion but our control operator tried to keep the family calm, told them we were on our way and talked them through what to do. They were told to stay in the room, open the bedroom windows, keep low to the floor, make sure the door was closed and place towels and bedding at the foot of the door to stop smoke coming in.

'The family were then kept on the phone until the arrival of fire crews from Downham Market, Methwold and Littleport. The mother and one of the children were still in the bedroom when the crews arrived and were rescued by ladder.'

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The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen of the property, which is an Airey house design built after the second world war as an answer to the immediate need for extra accommodation.

'Our control operators are trained to help in just these kind of situations and give fire survival advice and on this occasion their professionalism and a swift response and rescue by our firefighters helped prevent a terrifying situation becoming a tragic one,' said Mr Dungar.

An ambulance was called to the scene, but it is believed that none of the four residents were injured.

Neighbours said a young couple with two children had been living for some time in the property which was boarded-up after the fire.

It is owned by Freebridge Social Housing and a spokesman said: ''We are working with the tenant and her family to provide appropriate support at this time. We have also worked with the emergency services to secure the property and provide additional support as needed.'

Freebridge owns around 150 Airey houses across West Norfolk.

Two Norfolk fire crews from Downham Market and Methwold attended the scene assisted by a Cambridgeshire crew from Littleport and firefighters remained at the scene until about 4.10am.

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