A 12-year-old St Helens girl who rescued her entire family from a devastating blaze at their home will be held up by firefighters as a shining example of how to react in a real-life 999 drama.
Megan Atherton has been hailed as ‘a hero’ by fire crews after she shouted and whistled to wake up her mum and dad and five siblings when she saw flames pouring out of a first floor bedroom.
Megan said: “When I saw the fire my whole body just froze and I couldn’t think of anything.
“Then my brain just clicked and I remembered something I had learned from the fire brigade in school about what to do if we ever saw a fire.
“They told us to make sure everyone in the house was awake, and to go around the rooms to check everyone is out before leaving all together.
“So I just shouted and whistled as loud as I could.”
Megan and her family were enjoying a weekend sleep-in at their Ribble Road home in Blackpool, where the family have recently moved, when the fire broke out at around 10am on Saturday.
After spotting the blaze, the youngster gathered her sisters Shannon, 14, Tessa, eight, and Helena, two, and brothers Peter, nine, and Ryan, six, together on the landing before rushing them out of the house while a neighbour called the fire services.
She then ran back into the living room where her parents were sleeping to alert them.
Megan’s mum, Lisa, said: “We usually have a sleep-in at the weekends, especially the kids as they’re usually tired from school. Me and my husband Roy were sleeping in the living room because we have only just moved in and are decorating the bedroom.
“The next thing I knew Megan burst in shouting, ‘Dad there’s a fire’.
“Roy jumped up and told me to grab a pan of water. I ran upstairs but I was breathing in smoke and coughing. When I saw the flames covering the bed I just ran.”
Firefighters will now retell Megan’s story on their educational visits to the resort’s schools in the hope other youngsters will use the information to keep safe.
Still wearing their pyjamas, the Atherton’s took refuge in a neighbour’s home, while fire crews battled in vein to save their home which has been left ‘completely uninhabitable’.
The family, who had just moved to the resort from St Helens, were looking forward to their first Christmas in their new home but now face an uncertain future.
Lisa, a full-time carer for disabled son Peter, said: “How can you describe watching your new house go up in flames? It was devastating.
“The house was supposed to be a new start for us and now it’s gone.
“We’ve been moved into a hostel on Central Drive by emergency social services but we can only stay for 28 days - and we’ve been told by the landlord that repairs to the house will take at least seven months.
“If we can’t find another place to live we’ll have to move back to St Helens.
“There will be no Christmas for us. All our plans have been ruined.”
Megan’s dad, Roy, 48, who was taken to hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation, added: “We’ve lost everything.
“We thought we would be spending Christmas at home unwrapping presents. Now it looks like we’re going to be spending it in a homeless shelter.”
As well as all their clothes and possessions, the family lost their pet hamster Squeak in the blaze.
However, Lisa and Roy say they are trying to stay positive, and have praised their ‘hero’ daughter’s actions.
Lisa said: “We are so proud of Megan for taking charge. She is the real brains of the family and always has her head in a book.
“Megan’s whistle is very loud and very annoying - but it saved our lives.
“Without her we would be dead. We would have been burned to a crisp along with the house.”
Steve Boyne, watch manager at South Shore fire station, said: “We want to emphasise Megan’s actions in response to the fire. She did a sterling job and potentially saved lives. We really want to use her as an example to other children about what they should do if they find a fire.
“Firefighters often pay visits to schools to teach children about fire safety and talk about their experiences with different sorts of fires and their causes, but their experiences will be very different to that of a young girl.
“We could educate a lot of children by telling Megan’s story, or having her tell it herself in school assemblies.”