Keighley people are putting their lives at risk - for the price of a battery.

The stark warning from the town's fire chief follows two house blazes where smoke detectors were fitted, but the batteries removed.

Assistant Divisional Officer John Davies told us: "We have spent the past two years going around the Keighley area fitting smoke detectors in people's homes. So far we have installed around 1,500.

"It is extremely frustrating when a lot of effort is put into promoting these alarms and then householders fail to replace batteries.

"Evidence shows that smoke detectors do save lives. They give you those extra few minutes' warning that can mean the difference between life and death.

"As a general rule the batteries need to be replaced every year and the alarm should be tested weekly. In many cases a bleeping noise sounds when the batteries are running down."

In the first of the house fires - on Saturday afternoon - a young mother and her 16-month-old baby were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke.

They were sent to Airedale Hospital for checks after escaping from their terrace house in Eel Holme View Street, Beechcliffe.

Keighley fire service sub-officer Eddie Presland, who attended the scene, said: "They had no injuries as such but their faces were blackened and the baby boy had taken in a bit of smoke, so as a precaution it was felt they should get checked over at hospital. The house was full of very thick black smoke."

Firefighters wore breathing apparatus to tackle the blaze, which started in a sofa. Fire damage was restricted to the living room.

Crews also rescued a cat which had taken refuge in a bedroom, and gave it oxygen.

A new ventilation fan, recently acquired by Keighley fire station, was used to help clear the smoke from the property.

The cause of the blaze was believed to be a cigarette.

In the second incident - early on Sunday - a family fled from a smoke-filled house at Braithwaite Crescent, Keighley.

A nightclub worker returning home fell asleep on the settee after putting a pan on the cooker.

Five other people, including two children, were asleep upstairs at the time.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used one hosereel to extinguish the burning pan. Fire damage was minimal, but the house was extensively smoke logged.

Leading firefighter Mark Brittain said afterwards: "Fortunately the man downstairs started coughing and woke up and everyone was able to get out the house safely, but the situation could have been so much worse.

"A smoke detector was fitted on the ground floor but the batteries had been removed. Had the alarm operated it would have alerted the occupants much sooner and a lot of the danger could have been averted."

Keighley fire service offers information and advice and free fitting of smoke detectors. Some people may also be eligible for free alarms. For further details phone 01535 607401.

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