FIREFIGHTERS today pleaded with residents to ensure smoke alarms are fitted and working in their homes after a blaze ripped through a pensioner’s house.

The fire broke out in the middle of the night at the 76-year-old man’s semi-detached house in Southampton, which was badly smoke-logged throughout, while the lounge was destroyed by the flames.

Neighbours described how they woke at 3.40am on Saturday to an “absolutely hectic” scene of firefighters battling to put out flames in Norfolk Road, Shirley.

They told of plumes of smoke billowing into the sky and their road “lit up like a Christmas tree” because of all the emergency services with flashing lights at the scene.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, told the Daily Echo: “I looked outside and I could see the smoke billowing out of the house. I’m just glad that he’s alright.”

Pam and Phil Olive live opposite and said they were “shocked” to see firefighters out on the street while the home of their neighbour of 25 years was engulfed by flames and smoke.

“There was a lot of police around in case anybody had to be evacuated. It was absolutely hectic,” Pam said.

Police were forced to close the road while the situation was made safe while the owner, who had managed to get out by himself, was taken to Southampton General Hospital as a precaution.

Although the exact cause of the fire has not been determined and is now under investigation, fire crews say they found no evidence to suggest the owner had smoke detectors inside the property.

Crew manager Dave Norgate stressed the importance of smoke alarms especially in the run-up to Christmas.

He said: “As we now move into the festive season we all naturally introduce more electrical items into our homes with Christmas decorations and other electronic equipment, everything that we use to celebrate Christmas.”