WHEN you are 90-years-old it can take quite a while to blow out all those candles.

So long, in fact, one birthday girl got more than she bargained for when she filled her lungs and puckered up for the task.

Three long minutes later some of the flames were still twinkling merrily, while friends and family were struggling with their rendition of “Happy Birthday” to the accompaniment of ear-splitting smoke alarms. Within moments, Irene Pennick was playing host to firefighters, who had raced to the scene ready tackle a blaze.

Instead, they were offered drinks and nibbles as the rather red-faced great-grandmother offered her profuse apologies for the false alarm.

Irene, who lives in sheltered accommodation in The Mallards, High Street, Great Wakering, said: “I had 90 candles on my cake, and I was trying to blow them out. The next thing I knew there were firemen coming in. “We were having a lovely party, so we offered them something to eat and drink but they said they couldn’t because they were on duty.

“They were very good about it all though. I’d been trying to blow out the candles for about three minutes when all the alarms went off.

“I had my great-grandchildren here. They were very pleased and had a good look over the fire engine parked outside. I think it really made their day.”

Mrs Pennick, who has three daughters living in Germany, Dover and Great Wakering, has four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. She added: “I am quite good for my age really. Someone told me to be careful when I have my 100th birthday, but I said I’ll be dribbling with my teeth hanging out by then, so I don’t think this will happen again.”

Her daughter Gillian Bailey, 65, of Moreland Close, Great Wakering, said: “Someone said they didn’t think we could get 90 candles on her cake, but we did. “We lit it and took it in turns singing Happy Birthday, but the next thing we knew the automatic fire doors had shut. “The firemen came very quickly and ended up having their picture taken with mum. I don’t think we will be able to top that. “We just thanked goodness there were no sprinklers.”

Sandra Nichols, manager of the complex, said: “I wasn’t there at the time but I heard all about it. Irene is a lovely, lively lady. We don’t usually have dramas like that.”

Green Watch at Southend Fire station covered the callout on Saturday at 6.15pm. They were unavailable to comment as they are not back on duty until the weekend.