A MOTHER was praised today for her quick thinking when she roused her sleeping children and rushed them to safety during a bedroom fire.

The woman evacuated her two daughters when smoke began filling the upstairs of her Hampshire maisonette at about 4am.

Luckily, she had been sleeping on the sofa in the lounge on the lower floor of the first-floor Fareham flat and was able to raise the alarm when the fire began in her bedroom, next to her daughters' rooms.

She awoke to make a drink, then went upstairs to go to bed, opened her bedroom door and discovered the fire giving off thick, choking smoke.

Deborah Bilton, of Freshwater House, on Frog-moor, off Greyshott Avenue, roused daughters Hannah, 16, and Lucy, 13, and took them outside. She called the fire service and shut all the doors.

Leading firefighter Toby Simmonds, of Fareham fire station, said: "The woman acted very quickly. She did all the right things and pulled her daughters out. She also closed the interior and outer doors to stop the fire spreading and made life easier for us.

"There's no doubt they were all very lucky because, by chance, she was sleeping downstairs for once and was awake at the time; otherwise it could have been a very serious story. Children are more vulnerable than adults to smoke inhalation.''

No one was hurt, but Hannah began to have an asthma attack. The bedroom was badly damaged. The fire was caused by an electrical fault in a heater in the rented house.

Mrs Bilton, a nurse for people with learning disabilities, said: "The girls wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't been sleeping on the sofa. If I'd been asleep it could have been a tragedy. Luckily, I was wake in time to rescue them.

"It was very frightening. When I opened the door to the fire I felt dizzy and I couldn't breathe because the smoke was so bad. No one could have survived that if they were asleep.''

She said there was no smoke alarm upstairs and would be asking for one from the letting agent.