A pregnant woman and a man escaped uninjured when their washing machine caught fire last night.

The couple who were asleep, were alerted to the smouldering machine by a smoke alarm that had been fitted by firefighters less than six months ago.

Five fire engines and 25 firefighters from West Norwood, Norbury and Forest Hill were called to the flat in Grenville Court in Lymer Avenue, Upper Norwood, at 10.55pm.

An electrical fault caused the washing machine to start smouldering, giving out toxic fumes. The smoke alarm went off, waking the pair who were able to escape from the flat.

The fire was under control at 11.10pm and London Ambulance Service treated the woman at the scene for smoke inhalation.

West Norwood Crew Manager Matthew Wright said: "There’s not a doubt in my mind that the smoke alarm saved their lives.

"The smoke that comes from melted plastic is very toxic and extremely dangerous, if they hadn’t woken up when they did this story could have had tragic consequences.

"The London Fire Brigade fits smoke alarms for free, so if you can’t get hold of one yourself, arrange a home fire safety visit and we will come to your home, talk about fire safety, and fit alarms where necessary. As you can see, smoke alarms really do save lives."

To book a home fire safety visit london-fire.gov.uk/homefiresafetyvisit.asp