Sisters backing fire safety campaign after blaze tragedy

Darren Wickings with the sisters
Darren Wickings with the sisters

TWO women whose mother died after a fire in her home have spoken to raise awareness of fire safety equipment for those with additional needs.

Jo Zingel and Louise Noon, who lost mum Patricia in July last year, were taking part in West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s Who Cares? campaign, launched at Tesco’s Durrington superstore, on Thursday.

The campaign is aimed at those who care for loved ones and highlights the range of products that can be installed free-of-charge, in addition to smoke alarms.

It comes after worrying statistics show two-thirds of people dying in house fires in West Sussex are over 65 and living alone.

The equipment, which includes alarms which automatically call the fire service, could have saved Jo and Louise’s mum’s life.

Louise said: “We didn’t know they could come in and provide this equipment for free.

“We had fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors and were very aware of the dangers, but didn’t know about the radio equipment.” In June last year, Jo was making her daily visit to her mum’s home, in New Road, Durrington, when she noticed the house full of black smoke.

It was just 45 minutes since Louise had left, but in that time, a fire had started.

Jo managed to get Patricia out of the house, but two weeks later, she died.

The sisters have spoken about their ordeal in an attempt to highlight the availability of life-saving equipment.

Jo said: “We cared for mum along with other family members and friends, and that day she had been on her own for 45 minutes.

“As I got to the house, I could hear the smoke alarm going off and could see black smoke inside.

“I called out to her and got an answer, and I made the decision to go in.” The family had made a number of safety improvements, including replacing waste bins with metal ones and providing woollen blankets, which are more fire-retardant than those made of different fabrics.

But watch commander at Worthing Fire Station, Darren Wickings, said the equipment the campaign was educating people on could have helped in a number of fatal fires he had attended.

He said: “So far, we have had a large number of requests for home-safety checks.

“Having standard smoke alarms is most important, but, unfortunately, some people need that little bit of extra protection.

“For example, if you are hard-of-hearing, there are smoke alarms that have strobe lights and link to vibrating pads under your pillow.”

He added: “Another thing we fit are radio alarms, which alert a control centre at the first sign of fire.

“In a lot of cases, it could enable us to get there quicker and we will be able to save you.”

To arrange a home fire check, or find out more about what’s available, call 0800 328 6487.

For a video featuring more advice from Darren, visit www.worthingherald.co.uk