Tunbridge Wells families visit the fire station after neighbours save the day
A family from Tunbridge Wells has visited their local fire station to thank their neighbours and the fire crew for saving their home.
Firefighters were called to the property in East Cliff Road last month after vigilant neighbours raised the alarm and prevented a potentially devastating fire.
Last Sunday (17 December) the Sharpe family, along with their neighbours, the Coystens, were treated to a special tour of Tunbridge Wells Fire Station, and received a warm welcome from the crew.
Mother of three, Kate Sharpe, has since highlighted the importance of getting to know your neighbours - well enough that you would be able tell when something was wrong, just as her neighbours did last month.
Kate describes how she had started to prepare the evening meal on 21 November, microwaving some jacket potatoes, before popping out to take her children to their clubs. Minutes later, she received a call from neighbours, Tim and Jessica Coysten. They informed her that a smoke alarm was sounding in her house and that they were in the process of checking for signs of fire.
Jessica described what happened next. She said: “We often hear the smoke alarm sounding next door, but it is usually silenced very quickly, so when this didn’t happen we become concerned. We noticed Kate’s car wasn’t there either, so we went to investigate. Tim and I and our two children realised we could smell smoke, so Tim looked through the back window and discovered that the ground floor of the three-story house was smoke logged. We immediately dialled 999 and asked for the fire service.
The couple found the spare key they look after for their neighbours and unlocked the door but left it closed, so when the fire crew arrived minutes later they didn’t need to waste precious time gaining access to the house. Jessica added: “The smell of smoke was horrible and I knew it was unsafe to open the door or enter the property ourselves, because my sons received fire safety talk from firefighters at primary school.”
Firefighters entered the house wearing breathing apparatus. Crews used a thermal imaging camera to quickly locate the source of the smoke to a microwave in the ground floor kitchen. They also carried out a full search of the smoke-filled property to make sure there was no one was inside. Crews removed the microwave from the building and used powerful fans to clear the smoke from the all floors of the house. Fortunately, the damage was contained to the microwave.
The neighbours all had each another’s phone numbers, so were able to keep Kate informed about what was happening. By the time she had returned home, just minutes later, the incident had been dealt with and the family were received reassurance and advice from Tunbridge Wells watch manager (WM) Richard Cobb and his crew.
Kate said: “I am extremely grateful to both the fire crew and my neighbours for their fast response to what could have been a very serious situation and to the firefighters who searched our home in the smoke to check for family members. It really hits home how precious your family is, and how important it is to have good people around you. At this time of year, families can be very busy and preoccupied preparing for the festivities, but I would urge people to take the time to test your smoke alarm and to be neighbourly - it could just save a life.”
WM Cobb said: “It appears that the potatoes that Kate had microwaved before leaving the house had continued to cook after the appliance had stopped and had ignited inside, causing a vast amount of smoke. Unfortunately, the internal doors had been left open so the smoke spread through the house. Our advice is to always keep internal doors closed where possible when leaving the premises and at night.
WM Cobb added: “The neighbours’ actions on hearing the smoke alarm and alerting us clearly saved this property from the potentially devastating effects of fire. It demonstrates how essential it is to have working smoke alarms and also to get to know other people in your community, so that you can be good neighbours and help each other out in emergencies such as these.
“We were delighted to invite both families to the station and to give them further reassurance after experiencing such a frightening incident, and we are glad that the Sharpe family will be able to enjoy the Christmas period in their home, thanks to having such caring and proactive neighbours.”
Trying out the firefighting equipment