Woman rescued after tea towels start freak blaze at her home in Sidney Road, Knighton
A mother and daughter had to be rescued by firefighters after a pile of tea towels "spontaneously combusted" and started a fire in their home.
Nicola Boulton and her daughter Claire were terrified when they realised smoke was billowing up the stairs of their home in Sidney Road, Knighton, Leicester.
Teenager Claire woke up to a strong smell of burning at about 2am yesterday.
The 19-year-old said: "I woke up and I could smell this really strong smoke smell.
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"I went to my door and looked out and there was loads of smoke coming up the stairs.
"I shouted to my mum who was fast asleep."
The frightened pair sought safety away from the smoke, running to the bathroom to call the fire service.
A call handler told them to shout for help out of the window and block the bottom of the door with towels.
Nicola, 49, said: "We were struggling to breathe as the smoke was coming in. It was really quite frightening.
"It doesn't seem real now."
After pulling them from the house through the bathroom window, firefighters put out the blaze – but could find no obvious source of the fire.
After investigating the scene, they realised a pile of recently laundered tea towels had "spontaneously combusted".
Claire, a cafe manager, had bought the towels home from work and washed and tumble dried them hours earlier.
Fire investigators think the towels retained the heat, causing them to catch alight.
"It's bizarre," said Claire. "We've washed and tumble dried them the same way countless times and nothing has ever gone wrong."
The towels and the plastic basket they were in were destroyed in the blaze but, apart from some blackened kitchen walls, the rest of the house was untouched.
Fire investigator, station manager Steve Smith, said blazes started by spontaneous combustion were unusual but not unheard of.
"The cause of the fire at the property has been investigated and, due to the configuration of the materials and the circumstances at the scene, we have determined the most likely cause was self-heating to a point where ignition occurred," he said.
"This is not a common phenomenon but has occurred and been widely documented in the past."