Firefighters from West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service who attended the incident on Tuesday afternoon on Blackthorn Close in Horsham have praised mum Vicki Smith and 10-year-old son Ollie for staying calm and preventing the incident from escalating into something far more dangerous.
Vicki was working from home in the family kitchen on Tuesday afternoon when she started to smell burning coming from the garage. Opening the door she found it completely smoke-logged and realised it was coming from the tumble dryer.
She said: “I immediately shouted to Ollie and told him to dial 999 for the fire service and to get out of the house with the dog and go to the neighbour’s house. I then unplugged the tumble dryer to isolate the power.”
But knowing that the gas mains intake and boiler for the house were nearby to the smouldering tumble dryer she made the snap decision to try and remove the tumble dryer from the garage to prevent the risk of a gas explosion.
“It is all a bit of a blur now,” she said. “At the time I just did it without really thinking. I threw a wet towel over the tumble dryer, which was already getting quite hot, just while I went and got the fire blanket which I threw over the top. At this point I couldn’t see any flames, it was just smoke. So I started to manoeuvre the tumble dryer out of the garage door. But the plug went through the cupboard casing around the dryer, so I couldn’t just pull it out. I ran back into the kitchen and found the sharpest scissors we have – which thankfully were in the kitchen drawer where they belong – and cut the power cable.
“By this point I could see the flames starting to come out of the back of the machine. I just knew I needed to get it outside. I then dragged the tumble dryer outside and got the garden hose on it to extinguish the flames.”
Horsham Black Watch Crew Commander Ed Coulson was part of the responding crew mobilised to deal with the incident at 4.34pm. He said: “Firstly, Ollie did a great job in remaining calm and dialling 999 without any further help. He knew his full address, including postcode, and was able to give our control room operators a clear understanding of what was going on so that they could mobilise the right resources to the scene.
“Vicki really went above and beyond to try and prevent the fire becoming a much more serious incident, which took real bravery. She was very lucky not to injure herself in the process.
“However we would always recommend that if an electrical appliance caches fire, dial 999 for the fire and rescue service, and get everyone out of the property, closing the doors behind you as you go.”
Investigations into what started the fire suggest the 10-year-old appliance was nearing the end of its working life, combined with a build-up of lint inside the mechanism. Fortunately there was no damage caused to the family home.