A WOMAN rescued from her home by firefighters may not have survived a blaze had she not been alerted by a smoke alarm.

The householder was sleeping at her terraced home in Burnopfield, near Stanley, when the fire took hold in a downstairs room late on Saturday night.

She was woken by the sounding alarm and managed to make her way downstairs by the time firefighters reached the scene, to help bring her to safety.

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The Durham brigade received the first report of smoke emerging from fire at the property in Maple Terrace, shortly after 10pm.

Neighbours raised the alarm after black smoke was seen pouring from the house.

Initially fire appliances from Consett and High Handenhold stations went to the scene, but they were joined by a further crew from Durham station.

A fire service spokeswoman said initial reports were unclear if anyone was present, but, on entry, firefighters wearing breathing apparatus found the woman and led her from the house.

It was confirmed no-one else was present in the house and the fire crews were able to bring the situation under control before 11pm, using ventilation fans to help rid the house of smoke.

Steve Wharton, of the Durham fire service, said the woman, who is said to be in her 40s, was treated at the scene for the effects of breathing in smoke.

“She was quite shaken, as you might expect, and the property was quite extensively damaged.”

He said it underlined the value of having a working smoke alarm, which can prove a “vital factor” in helping to warn sleeping people of the presence of smoke and fire in their home.

“The smoke alarm has given an early warning to make sure she was alerted.”

The cause is being investigated, but it is believed to have begun in the downstairs front room.