FIREFIGHTERS have today warned South Yorkshire residents to ensure they have a working smoke alarm after two people died in separate house fires.
The tragedies both happened in the early hours of Christmas Eve.
A man and his dog were killed in a flat at Cantley, Doncaster, and a woman died in a horrific blaze at a terraced house in Whaley Thorns, between Chesterfield and Worksop.
At the Doncaster flat, it is not believed there was a working smoke alarm, while officers investigating the Whaley Thorns fire have been unable to confirm there was a working alarm.
Group Manager Mick Mason, of South Yorkshire Fire Service, said: “Having a working smoke alarm is vital as it can ensure you have time to escape.
“We do not believe there was an alarm at the flat in Doncaster and it was not until the smoke spread to neighbouring flats that one sounded and emergency services were called.”
Group Manager Steve Helps, of Derbyshire Fire Service, who attended the Whaley Thorns fire, added: “At this time, it is not confirmed whether there was a working smoke alarm and I cannot stress enough the importance of having one.
“People can also take steps to minimise the risk of fire by turning appliances off and households should also have an escape plan.”
Crews were called to the first tragedy at Callender Court, Middleham Road, Cantley, at 3.20am on Christmas Eve.
Firefighters had to break into the burning flat, where the resident, a man in his 40s known to neighbours as Andy, and his pet Akita dog were found dead in the living room, where the fire is believed to have started.
The fire service said occupants of neighbouring flats were led to safety as a precaution after smoke spread, and one woman was taken to hospital for a precautionary check up.
A neighbour said: “It’s quite a shock. I knew the man only by his first name and used to see him out and about walking his dog which was a beautiful Japanese Akita.”
Meanwhile, a 65-year-old woman, named by neighbours as Norma Sweeney, was killed in a ‘very significant fire’ which destroyed a house on Mary Street, Whaley Thorns..
Her husband Bob, daughter and a friend, who had all been asleep in the house, managed to escape by jumping out of an upstair windows and one of them via the front door.
The fire, which broke out after 5am, was so severe the inside of the home was completely destroyed and the roof had collapsed.
Flames had spread to the roofs of two neighbouring homes, which were also evacuated.
Flowers were laid at the scene by Mrs Sweeney’s family and friends.
Bouquets of flowers had been left at the scene.
One had a message which read: “To the best mum ever, gonna miss you so much. We will love you forever. You will always be in our thoughts. Max and Jac.”
A bouquet from one of Mrs Sweeney’s daughters said: “To mum, love you so much, Rachael.”
Other flowers had messages which paid tribute to a ‘truly wonderful lady’.
One neighbour said: “It was an inferno and the three who got out were lucky to survive. Norma is well-known around here along with her husband, who used to be a miner.
“She worked at the Snapbox cafe and charity shop and also used to be a regular playing bingo at The Gate pub.”
Group Manager Steve Helps, of Derbyshire Fire Service, said: “When the first crew arrived at about 5.20am there was already a very significant fire.
“Three people had managed to escape but one occupant was not able to get out. The fire is believed to have started on the ground floor and we are currently investigating the cause.
Neither fire is being treated as suspicious and police and fire service investigations continue.