AN off-duty firefighter raised the alarm about a fire in a second-floor flat.

The officer was in Great Western Park in Didcot when he heard the flat's smoke alarm sounding at 11.20am on Monday.

After calling for back-up, crews from Wallingford, Abingdon and Oxford attended the scene and braved the flat in protective gear and breathing apparatus with a high-pressure hose reel.

It was only when they got inside they discovered the flat's sprinkler system had already activated and suppressed the fire.

The occupant of the flat, which is owned by Oxford City Council, has now been rehoused until it can be repaired.

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Incident commander Paul Webster said: "Thankfully there was no one in the property at the time of the fire but smoke alarms alerted the rest of the residents in the block of flats, and can save lives by giving early warning in the event of a fire starting.

"In a property where sprinklers are not installed the fire would have continued to grow until the fire crews attended, whereas in this property the sprinkler system meant that there was in essence a firefighter on standby in the room where the fire broke out, ready to control that fire as soon as the build-up of heat reached a specific set level.

"A sprinkler system is designed to control the rate of growth of a fire, and therefore restrict its ability to spread.

"There is no doubt that if the flat had not got a domestic sprinkler system, then the whole flat would have become involved in fire so the level of damage would have been far worse."