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Friday, 27 April, 2001, 16:07 GMT 17:07 UK
Seven escape house fires
One of the fires is thought to have started in a chip pan
One of the fires is thought to have started in a chip pan
Seven people, including a baby, have escaped from two early morning house fires in Londonderry.

The fire service said there could have been fatalities if smoke alarms had not been installed in the houses.

The first blaze, thought to have begun in a chip pan, broke out at Old School Lane in the Shantallow area of the city.

A father and five children, aged between 18-months and nine-years-old, were asleep when a blaze erupted in the kitchen and started to spread.

Lives saved

The family were alerted by a smoke alarm and had managed to escape by the time fire crews arrived.

Neighbour Rita Heaney said the children's father saved their lives.

"Two of the children had ran back into the house and he had ran back in and got them out again.

"Let's face it, there could have been another tragedy."

The family were treated in hospital for shock and the effects of breathing in smoke.

Firefighters who tackled the blaze said it started in the chip pan.

Willie Lynch: Fire alarms saved lives
Willie Lynch: Fire alarms saved lives

Assistant divisional fire officer Willie Lynch said it could have been much worse.

"If it hadn't have been for the smoke alarm there definitely would have been fatalities in that house and we would have been looking at a much more serious situation."

He said it was extremely important that all houses used a thermostatically controlled chip pan.

"These open chip pans are basically lethal weapons," he said.

He said that everyone should install a smoke detector in their homes and ensure it was working properly.

The kitchen of the home was extensively damaged in the blaze.

Fire officers were also called to deal with a fire in the Woodbrook area on Friday morning.

But they said the occupants had a smoke alarm and escaped uninjured.

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See also:

20 Apr 01 | Northern Ireland
Funeral of house fire children
23 Feb 00 | Scotland
Fire safety message issued
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