A Stevenage man is a believer in fate after a fire in a neighbouring house gave him a timely reminder of the importance of smoke alarms.

Fear struck Geoff Horton earlier this month when the road into his home in Raban Close was blocked by a fire engine, with plumes of smoke visible from the cul-de-sac.

Geoff – who by chance had been returning home with a new smoke alarm – discovered that a fire had been started at his neighbours’ house after a stack of wood was left close to a log burner.

Luckily the crew from Stevenage’s Red Watch extinguished the fire before it became fully alight, after four Year 7 pupils from Barnwell School witnessed the smoke and alerted a neighbour.

The students – Connor Bell, Jordon Bell, Alfie Aron and Billy Johnson – were rewarded for their quick-thinking with a quartet of Stevenage FC tickets, but Geoff feels the importance of smoke alarms should never be understated.

“When I turned into my cul-de-sac and saw the fire engines my hurt skipped a beat,” he said.

“It sent a shiver down my spine as earlier in the day my wife and I had bought a new smoke alarm, as I had taken my old one down when I decorated the hallway in the summer but never got round to replacing it.

“I believe in fate and that was definitely a reminder of how important smoke alarms are.

“I think the Stevenage Red Watch fire crew did a magnificent job responding quickly to save a very grateful couple’s house and giving everyone advice in the cul-de-sac who spoke to them.

“They went beyond the call of duty in taking time and effort to put up our smoke alarms and giving us advice about them.

“The couple have already sent some sweets round to Connor’s house to thank him and his mates, and they want to say a big thank you to the fire crew for coming so quickly and dealing with the situation.”

Chief fire office Roy Wilsher said: “You’re four times more likely to survive a fire if you have a working smoke alarm. It only takes a moment and by pushing the test button on every smoke alarm in your home, you could save the lives of your loved ones.”

l A string of kitchen fires which marred the Christmas weekend have prompted Bedfordshire’s fire and rescue service to urge people to be more careful in their kitchens over the coming holiday break.

In the most serious incident, in Stotfold on Monday evening, firefighters from Shefford and Baldock were called in to tackle the kitchen blaze. Three adults and one child were treated with oxygen therapy by firefighters for the effects of smoke inhalation at the scene in Hyde Avenue, before being passed into the care of the ambulance service.