Something as simple as closing a door can help prevent the spread of fire and toxic smoke in a home by up to 20 minutes – this is the advice from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service.

The importance of closing internal doors became evident at a recent fire in Crawley on Tuesday 7 July.

Upon arrival at the incident, crews from Crawley and Horsham fire stations were relieved to find that the family had all escaped from the property quickly. They had also managed to close their upstairs doors as they made their way out, containing the fire to the first-floor bedroom and landing area.

Station Manager, Jim McGrath, said: “Responding to a fire involving somebody’s home is probably one of the worst calls that we can receive. Knowing that someone’s place of safety is under threat makes us even more determined to do all that we can to save as much of the property as possible.

“Thankfully on this occasion, the family made a split-second decision in what must have been terrifying circumstances to close their internal doors behind them as they left the building.

“I am under no doubt that this decision prevented the further spread of fire throughout the building, and allowed us to bring the fire under control quickly.

“The family fortunately had a working smoke alarm fitted on each level of their property, which gave them plenty of warning that something was wrong.”

West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service attended 428 house fires during 2018/19, and is urging all residents across the county to close their doors when they go to bed at night, and when they leave their property in a bid to try and reduce the damage caused by fires,  as part of their Shut Fires Out campaign.

Nicki Peddle is West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service’s Head of Prevention. She said: “Containing a fire to the room of origin for up to 20 minutes can mean the difference between getting your family out safely and the property being saved, and losing your home to fire.

“It’s such a simple thing to do, but makes a real difference at the crucial moment. Just remember to do it each night or before you leave the house. Set an alarm on your phone, ask Alexa to remind you or put a post-it note on your front door to help you remember.”

If you are worried about a vulnerable person who might be at risk of fire you can refer them for free Safe & Well advice. Even during the pandemic we can do this via Skype, telephone call or by handing out our handy booklet. Where appropriate they’ll fit smoke alarms or other specialist fire detection equipment free of charge. Click here for more information.