FIRE chiefs have issued a sombre New Year safety plea following a bleak festive season of fatal house fires and families left homeless by flames.
James Broadhead, aged 79, died at his home on Castle Hill, Eckington, on Christmas Day.
On Christmas Eve two separate blazes claimed the lives of a man in his 40s in a flat at Callender Court, Middleham Road, Cantley, Doncaster and a 65-year-old woman at her home on Mary Street, in Whaley Thorns between Chesterfield and Worksop.
She was named by neighbours as Norma Sweeney.
In the run-up to Christmas families were left homeless when flames ripped through their properties. Pregnant mum-of-six Sam Woodburn, 34, saw her home on St Withold Court, Thurcroft, Rotherham, destroyed.
In Doncaster a blaze on Broomhouse Lane, Edlington, killed a family of seven’s two dogs, two rabbits and four cats.
Today Jon Torn, of South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, urged everyone to make fire safety their top New Year resolution.
He is calling for all homes to be fitted with working smoke alarms and stressed they should be tested every week.
“Smoke alarms can make the difference between life and death - they will warn you there is a fire in your home and, if you have an evacuation plan in place, everybody should be able to get out,” he said.
“Fires devastate lives - they gut properties and people lose things they can never replace. But most importantly they can claim lives. A few simple steps can make the difference.”
He added: “We are also stressing the dangers of cooking while under the influence of alcohol, and know that people enjoying the festivities may be drinking more than usual. But these days, with the economic climate, more people are staying in and drinking at home these days so the risk of a kitchen fire is even greater.
“When cooking, never leave pans and food unattended and always switch off appliances when going to bed. If you use candles make sure they are away from curtains and drapes and never on top of items that could catch fire. Always extinguish them when you leave a room.
“We also advise people not to smoke in bed.”
This year The Star teamed up with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to encourage at least 200 readers to sign up for free smoke alarms and home safety check. Scores signed up within hours.
n Ambulance bosses appeal to drunken revellers: P16.