Heather Peace is more accustomed to putting out the flames as London's Burning firefighter Sally Fields than burning up the pop charts.

But, like many a TV star before her, she's hoping that will soon change.

The 24-year-old Bradford actress is hoping her debut single The Rose will turn into a hot hit and not just another damp squib.

"I know it's not going to do anything for my street cred and sounds really cheesy but I want to give it my best shot," says the elfin-faced actress, running her hands through her dark, spiky, cropped hair.

"When I was first approached about making the single, I was really dubious about doing it. I just thought everybody is going to be thinking, 'not another television star thinking they are a pop star.'

"But the more I thought about it the more I realised that I was just being a bit of a snob and I didn't want to end up regretting missing out on the opportunity."

In fact, Heather was set up by the show's producers. "They knew I could sing and wanted to do a song in the show so I agreed," she explains.

"Then they asked me to sing at a party and invited all the right people along to hear me. Luckily they liked what they heard and approached me about doing a single.

"If they hadn't have liked my singing, I would have been none the wiser about them being at the party as nobody told me anything about what was going on."

It is Heather's second season with the top-rated television show and she still can't believe her luck at being recruited to Blue Watch.

"They must have had hundreds of actresses with a lot more experience than me up for the part but I got it," she says.

"It's amazing - when we shoot the fire scenes you get this real adrenaline rush. We do wear all the proper protective clothing so we do get to run through the fire.

"And I always know that if anything doesn't go according to plan, there are four or five hunky firefighters right behind me waiting to pull me out of the way," she laughs.

A bit of a self-confessed tomboy, Heather says there are other bonuses with her screen role. "I get to do all those things which I wasn't allowed to do as a kid. I get to smash up car windscreens, kick in doors and break windows - it's great fun."

Heather was born and grew up in Bradford. Her dad is a salesman and her mum a careers officer.

"I always used to hang out with my brother - I can't really remember any girls in our street. I used to play football all the time and was in a team until I was 13.

"Mum always tells me about when I was three years old. She had spent ages making me a frock but when she tried to get me to wear it, I just created complete havoc."

After finishing school, she went to Manchester Polytechnic to study drama. "I had a really good time and it was a great place to study because they didn't try to make me get rid of my accent," she says.

She got her first television break when she played teacher Sally Cullen in Emmerdale. "I only appeared in nine episodes but it was brilliant. I ended up being a bit embarrassed on my first day because I had to do a scene with the actor who plays Jack Sugden.

"I don't really watch much telly and said: 'Hello, who are you?' He said: 'I play Jack Sugden and I've been in the show for 18 years'. Despite that, he was great to me."

Then she managed to get a couple of roles in provincial theatres. To make ends meet she decided to put her skills as a singer to good use.

"My friend Steve and me used to do a gig every week at The Velvet bar in Manchester for two years. We only got paid £40 but it kept me going when I wasn't working and meant I never had to sign on the dole.

"I think it also helps you mentally if you can try and support yourself when times are lean."

Heather got her lucky break when she played a car thief in an episode of The Bill. A casting director spotted her and invited her to audition for London's Burning.

Up until recently she had been commuting back to Manchester to carry on singing while making the television show.

"I have to be doing lots of things. I'm a typical Gemini and have to have my finger in lots of different pies. It's great that I can keep up the singing while I'm acting and don't have to make a choice between them both."

And she is determined to put her earnings to good use.

"In the past I've lived off £50 a week so it's nice finally having some money of my own. I've just bought a place in Brighton, which will mean I'll be able to enjoy the peace and quiet but be close enough to London for work."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.