Scotswood resident Joseph Veitch would not be alive today if his smoke alarm had not activated after his chip pan burst into flames in his kitchen.
Unemployed Joseph, aged 31 from Haig Crescent, Scotswood, had been drinking at home on Thursday night (1 March) and decided to put the chip pan on for some supper. He put the chip pan on around 10.25pm but fell asleep in the living room, leaving the chip pan dangerously unattended. The oil boiled over and within seconds the pan burst into flames.
Thick toxic smoke spread into the living room as Joseph lay sleeping in an armchair and it travelled quickly through the house until it was detected by the smoke alarm at the top of the stairs.
Joseph said: "I am still very shocked at what happened last night. I am still standing in the clothes I was in when it happened. The house is completely smoke damaged and there is a layer of black soot all over the walls, ceilings and furniture. I don't know how I am going to clean it all up. I just remember putting the chip pan on, then I must have drifted off to sleep. I woke up with a shock from the smoke alarm beeping. The room was full of thick black smoke billowing out from the kitchen and I was really scared. I chased my dog out of the room then I escaped and rang 999. I would never drink and put a chip pan on again and I would tell people to never do this. If I didn't have a smoke alarm, I would never have woken up."
Temporary District Manager for Newcastle, Geoff Hagon, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: "Having a working smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death as this incident clearly demonstrates. Thankfully, in this case Joseph wasn't hurt and is lucky to be alive, but this sort of incident can have very horrific consequences. Most fires start in the kitchen and leaving a chip pan unattended for just a short time can lead to disastrous results when the oil overheats and catches fire. They can cause horrific burns and even death as well as significant damage to your home.
Geoff continued: "Firefighters have since fitted additional smoke alarms at Joseph's home and will be visiting neighbours to offer home safety checks to ensure they also stay safe from fire in their homes. I urge everyone who owns a chip pan to throw it away and cook oven chips or use a thermostatically controlled deep fat fryer, which are much safer and to never cook whilst under the influence of alcohol or leave cooking unattended."
Joseph has since thrown out his chip pan and has vowed never to use one again and will be using a deep fat fryer from now on.
If you do choose to deep fat fry your chips, these fire safety tips could help reduce the risk:
• Don’t overfill a chip pan with oil - never fill it more than one-third full.
• Be careful that it doesn’t overheat - hot oil can catch fire easily.
• Make sure you dry chips before adding them to hot oil.
• Use a thermostat-controlled deep-fat fryer, which will make sure the fat doesn’t get
• Never throw water on a chip pan fire.
• Don’t cook after drinking alcohol.
• In the event of a fire, have an escape route in place.
• Don’t try to tackle a fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.
• Get a smoke alarm fitted and test it weekly.
For further advice on cooking safely visit www.twfire.gov.uk/cookingsafety.