Cambridgeshire Residents Urged to 'Pull Your Finger Out'

14 January 2008

photo of firefighters with a smoke alarm.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is delivering the stark message to 'Pull Your Finger Out' and check your smoke alarm as part of a new government campaign launched today. According to new survey results from the Fire Kills campaign and TNS  94% of the Eastern region's households polled have a smoke alarm, however 83% of those do not test their alarm often enough, risking the safety of homes and loved ones.

On average in Cambridgeshire, there are 433 accidental house fires each year, injuring 90 and killing two people . If you don't own a working smoke alarm you are twice as likely to die in a fire. That is why Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting CLG's Fire Kills Campaign: 'Pull your finger out'.

Chris Strickland, Assistant Chief Fire Officer says: "Despite the fact a high number of people in the Eastern region own a smoke alarm, a disturbing number do not maintain their alarms on a weekly basis.

"The message is simple - smoke alarms save lives, but only if they work. We're urging all Cambridgeshire residents to pull their fingers out and test their smoke alarms - this simple action could save the lives of your loved ones."

A new wave of TV advertising is accompanying the campaign. Fronted by Julie Walters, the advert highlights the devastating and potentially fatal consequences of not testing your alarm often enough. Running from January 15 to March 9, the advert shows the aftermath of a fire in the home with a burnt out kitchen providing the backdrop to the scene. 

Apathy seems to be the main reason that 50% of people from the Eastern region do not test their smoke alarms, with 26% of people attributing forgetfulness, 16% don't think about it, 3% being too busy or 5% just simply 'can't be bothered' to do an action that only takes a few seconds, but could potentially save their lives.

Ensuring you stay safe from fire is quick and simple. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has provided five essential fire safety tips to help you protect yourself, your family and your home from fire:

Step 1 - Fit a smoke alarm on each level of the property. When a fire starts, you only have a few minutes to escape so an early warning is vital. Make sure you replace the battery once a year, or, alternatively consider installing a 10-year battery smoke alarm or mains powered alarm.

Step 2 - Test it weekly. A working smoke alarm can buy you valuable time to get out, stay out and dial 999.

Step 3 - Plan your escape route. Make sure you and your family know the quickest way out in the event of fire. Consider an alternative route in case your usual one is blocked.

Step 4 - Stay safe in the kitchen. This is the area where most house fires start.  It only takes a minute to check electrical appliances are switched off.  Also, never leave cooking unattended.

Step 5 - Ask the experts. Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service offers free home fire safety checks to identify potential fire risks and advise what to do to reduce or prevent them. To find out more, contact your local fire station, or telephone 01480 444666 and quote code PSO, or visit the CFRS Gateway.

For more information visit the Fire Safety in the Home section.

Case Studies


A Peterborough resident woke in the early hours of the morning to hear the smoke alarm sounding, after someone had put a lighted roll of newspaper through the letterbox of her home.
At first, the woman could not work out where the smell of burning was coming from. It was when the smoke alarm activated that she realised what was happening.
She remembered the safety advice given to her during a Home Fire Safety Check completed by the fire service in 2005, and although she deviated from it, she managed to put out the fire and made sure that her children were safe.


Smoke detectors fitted by Yaxley firefighters during a Home Fire Safety Check in 2005 alerted a family to a fire in their home, enabling them to act promptly.
The fire started in the airing cupboard of a large house in Church Street  in Holme and was discovered by a resident who had gone to investigate after hearing one of the smoke alarms going off.
He was able to get out and dial 999 and crews were able to tackle the fire before it caused too much damage.


At 4.21pm yesterday, one crew from Dogsthorpe and one crew from Stanground were called to a house fire in Garton End Road in Dogsthorpe, Peterborough.
This was a fire in the dishwasher. A woman in her 20s and her friend were in the home at the time and were alerted to the fire by a smoke alarm.
The fire was contained to the dishwasher and the fridge. The rest of the ground floor was smoke damaged.
Firefighters wearing two breathing apparatus used one hose reel to extinguish the fire and returned to base by 5.03pm.
The cause of the fire was electrical.

East Cambs

A smoke alarm alerted a woman from Burwell to a fire in her flat on Monday, January 7, 2008.
The woman was sleeping at her home in Grantchester Rise in Burwell at about 11.36pm, when the smoke alarm sounded. She fled the house with her partner and dialled 999 on her mobile phone.

A fire had started in the fuse box, which was located next to the entrance to the flat.
One crew from Burwell and one crew from Swaffham Bulbeck were called to the fire and used two breathing apparatus and one CO2 extinguisher to put out the flames.
An electrician was then contacted to deal with the external supply.
If the fire had spread, it would have been very difficult for this woman and her partner to get out of the flat. The smoke alarm probably saved their lives.