07 January 2015
Smoke alarms at a holiday home in North Devon failed to go off when a fuse box outside the property caught fire in the early hours.
The holidaymakers were evacuated, along with those in neighbouring properties, while three fire crews tackled the blaze.
One of the party said it was lucky that someone was awake when the fire started because none of the alarms activated.
She said: “We looked out the front when there was a strange smell and the electric box was billowing with smoke and the house had filled with strong-smelling fumes. People were asleep upstairs, including a baby, and it turned out the smoke alarms weren't working. They never went off, even when the house was filled with toxic smoke.”
The cause of the fire is believed to have been accidental and was attributed to a surge from a pole-mounted transformer. A fire service spokesman said: “The alarm system didn’t activate but luckily not much smoke got inside the building”, while a director of the holiday company said the smoke alarms were definitely working.
Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a 'suitable and sufficient' fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.