JUST under half of all residential fires in south Essex in the past three years were in properties that didn’t have a working smoke alarm.

Firefighters went out to more than 600 homes that either didn’t have an alarm, or did not have one, but it didn’t work.

Senior firefighter, divisional officers Neil Fenwick, said too many people are putting their safety at risk by not having a smoke alarm in their home.

He said: “There is no excuse for not having one.”

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act shows the service was called out to 434 house and flat fires in Thurrock, Southend, Basildon, Rochford and Castle Point where there was no smoke alarm at all between April 2010 and March 2013.

Another 213 dwellings in the area had an alarm, but it was not working.

Overall, figures obtained by the Echo show there were 1,408 dwelling fires in south Essex in that period.

In Castle Point, more than half the homes visited by the fire service either did not have an alarm, or didn’t have one that worked.

Southend is the next worst area, with 47 per cent of call outs being to dwellings without an alarm. Mr Fenwick said: “A smoke alarm is the most important piece of equipment in any home. They provide vital early warning at the first sign of fire giving everyone the chance to get safely out.

“We provide and install smoke alarms for free, so there is really no excuse.”

Quick-thinking seven-yearold Kayla Henderson recently alerted her family to a fire at their home at Malyons, on the Felmores Estate, in Pitsea.

The property had a smoke alarm and her mum Danielle Purvey said it was thanks to that and her daughter the family got out safely.

An electrical surge had cut off the power and as Danielle was examining the fuse box, the schoolgirl alerted her to the blaze in her sister’s bedroom.

To arrange a free home fire safety visit, call 0845 601 2495 or e-mail web master@ essex-fire.gov.uk.