A BRAVE girl saved her family from burning alive in their sleep when their caravan caught fire in a freak accident.

Hayley Smith, aged five, woke up in the night to get a drink of juice when she saw flames engulfing the family's static home in Offerton Lane, Warndon Villages, Worcester.

She ran to wake up her mum and dad, telling them about the "red man", her name for fire. Her proud dad, John Smith, aged 25, said his daughter's courageous actions saved the lives of the entire family who were all asleep at the time.

Inside were wife Julie, 26, son Brian John, aged six, and daughters Hayley, aged five, and "baby Julie", aged 17 months whose health was of particular concern because she was born premature.

The fire, caused by an electric fan heater, started in the caravan's hallway just after 4.30am yesterday (Monday).

Mr Smith, who is a deep sleeper, said: "I was asleep and Hayley came into our room and said 'mum, there's a fire!' I didn't take no heed. I thought the child was joking. She kept going on, shouting 'there's a fire!' and then I got them all out. I was panicking to get the kids out. You can replace a piece of tin but you can't replace a kid's life."

Part of inside of the caravan is badly charred and smoke-damaged and the family has lost several items of sentimental value, including first baby clothes and some irreplaceable photographs which hung in the hall. Mr Smith said he had already managed to bring the fire under control before firefighters arrived within 10 minutes of the call, using a hose to dampen down the flames surging out of a vent in the caravan.

Mr Smith also disconnected the gas and electricity supply to prevent an explosion.

He said: "I'm just ecstatic to be alive and that the kids are still here. It could have been a lot worse. If it wasn't for my daughter we might not be here today. She is clever for her age. I went out and bought sweets and chocolates for her this morning and she's getting double the Easter eggs. She saved the day."

Mr Smith, who rents the caravan, said he expected the family would get a new caravan delivered later that day.

Two fire engines from Worcester attended the scene and crews wearing breathing apparatus used a hosereel jet to extinguish the fire.

Station Commander Ian Jallands said: “The occupier of the caravan managed to evacuate his family before using a garden hose to spray water onto the fire through the open door, which helped to control the flames until the fire crews arrived. “Once the firefighters had put the fire out they vented the caravan of smoke. The family were extremely lucky to survive the fire, which was thought to have been caused by an electric fan heater left on all night.

“Although there were two smoke alarms fitted in the caravan, the smoke alarm positioned directly above the fire had no battery in it. It was only by chance that the daughter awoke and alerted the adults, averting a certain tragedy.”

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service recommends that you make sure you have the earliest warning of a fire by testing your smoke alarm weekly. More safety information can be found at www.hwfire.org.uk