I should have had a smoke alarm – Shropshire pensioner

A Shropshire pensioner has rued the day she didn’t have a smoke alarm fitted in her century old family home after it was seriously damaged by fire.

Retired schoolteacher Margaret Leverett (63) surveyed the black and smoke damaged house where she was born and has lived all her life and said: “Getting a smoke alarm was on my list but I just never got around to it. I urge others to put it to the top of their shopping list.”

Margaret and her sister Anne were lucky to escape the midnight blaze which struck due to an electrical fault in a light fitting at their Duke of Sutherland detached home in Back Lane, Tibberton, last month.

It was a decision by Margaret to get out of bed and have a soak in the bath to ease her arthritic pain which led to her being downstairs when the fire broke out.

“If the sisters had been upstairs in bed asleep when the fire took hold at 1am then they may not have survived. They had a very lucky escape,” said Steve Purslow, a fire investigator for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The sisters were watching TV in the downstairs sitting room when they heard a loud bang from an aerosol can. They were forced to jump out of a window to escape after Margaret opened the door to investigate the noise and found the hallway “bright orange” with flames and full of choking back smoke.

“I couldn’t get to my mobile phone in the kitchen so it took a few extra minutes to find a neighbour who was awake before we could call 999. Because of the delay of between five and ten minutes, the flames took hold and spread so quickly,” said Margaret, who lost treasured family possessions and irreplaceable photographs in the fire.

A total of 15 firefighters from Newport and Wellington were on the scene within eight minutes to fight the blaze but when they arrived at the scene flames were shooting out of the roof.

“If we had a smoke alarm it would have alerted us in time and we would not be in the position we find ourselves now,” added Margaret who had to stay at the Lamb Inn at Edgmond with her sister before renting a nearby property.

Their home, which was due to be sold, is undergoing repairs expected to take four months.

Listen to an interview with Margaret Leverett talking about the urgent need for every Shropshire householder to install a smoke alarm - after her house fire. Click on the button below to listen.

10th November, 2011