A dad-of-three feared their family home had gone forever when a neighbour called to say it was on fire, but a closed door stopped the flames and smoke from ripping through the house.
“It’s a call you never think you’re going to get,” Richard Dannaher said. “I was an emotional wreck, in complete shock and disbelief, and I burst into tears.”
Richard, his wife Natalie, and their teenage son Jack, rushed back to their St Mary’s Island home on 7 September, to find four fire engines already there.
Upon entering the property in Little Victory Mount, crews wearing breathing apparatus discovered the blaze had been contained to Jack’s bedroom – because the door was shut.
Richard, 44, said: “Jack’s room is black, and his belongings are damaged or burnt beyond recognition. But most importantly, we’re all safe and ok.
“There’s no doubt the rest of our home was saved because of the door and our smoke alarms, which alerted our neighbours to call 999. Thankfully, our other two children weren’t home at the time.
“I will now tell everyone - close your internal doors before going out or going to bed and make sure your smoke alarms are working.”
The fire is believed to have started after electrical items left on charge, including a vape, overheated, and caused a pile of clothes to catch alight.
The family has now vowed to only charge gadgets when they’re at home and awake, and to unplug them as soon as they’re fully charged.
Richard said: “There’s so many things that need charging these days and we just assume they’re safe. I hope by sharing our experience, it will encourage others to check they’ve switched electrical items off.”
Matt Deadman, Assistant Director for Response at Kent Fire and Rescue Service (KFRS) said: “We commend Richard and his family for routinely closing internal doors at home – it’s such a simple thing that can hold smoke and flames back for between ten and 30 minutes.
“While our crews did a fantastic job bringing the fire under control, the Dannaher family ultimately saved their own home.
“This incident is also a reminder for everyone to take care with rechargeable gadgets containing lithium-ion batteries - like mobile phones, laptops, vapes and e-scooters or e-bikes. Often, they are safe, but if a lithium-ion battery is damaged or stored incorrectly, there’s a chance it could overheat, catch fire, or explode.”
Help to reduce this risk by:
• Buying good-quality items from trusted retailers.
• Charging and storing items safely, following manufacturers’ guidance.
• Only charging devices when you’re at home and awake.
• Unplugging devices once fully charged.