Sheffield blaze victim lucky to be alive after fan overheats

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A SHEFFIELD man says he is lucky to be alive after suffering burns while beating out a blaze with his hands and feet as smoke and flames engulfed his bedroom.

Tom Birch, aged 24, woke just inches from flames shooting from his fan heater, which he had switched on to warm up his room after returning home to a cold house following a night out.

The recruitment consultant, from Banner Cross, said he had intended to have the heater on for only a few minutes - but fell asleep and woke four hours later to find his bedroom ablaze.

His room was full of thick, toxic black smoke and flames were licking at his bed.

Tom suffered burns to his hands and his feet as he fought to put the fire out.

He told The Star he was lucky to wake when he did - and fears another minute or two might have proved fatal.

“I will never be so lucky again - another minute or two and it could have been a whole different outcome,” he said.

“It might have been too late.

“We had a smoke alarm, but it turns out it was in the wrong place, so we are now installing a new one.

“The alarm only activated when I opened my bedroom door, when I rushed out to try to get some fresh air.”

Tom said he woke up to find his room full of choking smoke and flames as high as his bedside table.

“I was in shock and just jumped out of bed because the fire was literally right next to me,” he said.

“I grabbed a towel and threw it over the flames trying to smother them. Then I ran out of the room because I couldn’t breathe.

“I went back into the room because the fire was still burning and I grabbed whatever I could find - clothes, towels - and I put them onto the fire as well and started patting the flames down with my hands and feet.

“I could feel my hands and feet burning and ran downstairs to get my phone to dial 999, but when I got through I couldn’t speak at first because of all the smoke I had inhaled.

“You see warning and safety advice about heaters and smoke alarms and those warnings are there for a reason - this proves how easy it is to be involved in a fire.

“I will never, ever use a fan heater again.”

Tom was treated at the scene by paramedics before being transferred to the Northern General Hospital for further care while firefighters checked the blaze was out and ventilated his room.

Last week Sinead Bowden, aged 23, was trapped in her room as fire from a faulty microwave oven plug raged in the kitchen downstairs on Romsdal Road in Crookes, Sheffield. She was given advice over the phone by control room operator Liam Booth as firefighters raced to the scene.