Family saved by smoke alarm bell

18:42, Oct 28 2012
Jorja, Toni and Mikayla Hughes
LUCKY ESCAPE: From left, twins Jorja and Toni Hughes, 8, and Mikayla Hughes, 9, with the mattress that caught alight in a fire caused by an electric blanket in Invercargill on Sunday morning.

A 9-year-old Invercargill girl came within minutes of being burnt in her bed after her electric blanket was left switched on at the weekend.

Mikayla Hughes got out of bed because it was too hot.

While she was out of bed her mattress went up in flames early yesterday morning.

Her mother, Jasmine Hughes, said her daughter had small red burn marks on her back.

"It's so scary, she had a lucky escape," she said.

A fire alarm in the family's Janet St house alerted the two adults and four children to the blaze and saved their lives, Mrs Hughes believed.


"A smoke alarm saved my family. If you don't have one, get out and get one," she said.

Mrs Hughes and her husband, Barry, were woken by the alarm and their frightened children came running into their bedroom about 3.30am.

It was the first time the pregnant mum of five had forgotten to turn off the electric blanket, she said. "I am usually so careful and always turn the blanket off because when I was younger my electric blanket caught on fire," she said.

Mikayla's bedroom was full of thick black smoke and the mattress was on fire, she said.

Mr Hughes said his first reaction was to get the mattress out of the house before the fire spread further, so he threw it over the balcony on to the garden below.

"The blankets were still smouldering . And at the time, we didn't know it was the electric blanket, which was still in the room," he said.

Mrs Hughes and her children were taken to Southland Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, returning home a few hours later.

The family said they were grateful to the neighbours who called the ambulance and gathered outside to help them.

"They were worried because we were exposed to toxic smoke and I started to get stomach pains.

"The baby is OK and I am just very tired," Mrs Hughes said.

She would be buying chocolates to thank her neighbours, she said.

Invercargill fire service senior station officer Neil Ladbrooke said the working smoke alarm in the family's home saved their lives.

"Many people don't realise that they lose their sense of smell when they sleep, so an alarm is crucial to detect a fire," he said.

Invercargill and Kingswell stations attended the incident, with firefighters using breathing apparatus to enter the bedroom before dousing the bedding.

The girl's mattress was an old foam mattress which created lots of smoke, but damage to the bedroom was kept to a minimum, Mr Ladbrooke said.

The Southland Times