A 12-year-old girl has been hailed a hero after she woke her family and saved them from a fire which destroyed their new home.
Megan Atherton shouted and whistled to wake up her parents and five siblings after she saw flames coming from a first-floor bedroom as they had a weekend lie-in.
Dramatic pictures show the inside of their Blackpool, Lancs., home completely gutted by the blaze that broke out around 10am on Saturday.
Brave 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 gathered 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 brigade.
She then went into the living room where her parents Lisa and Roy were sleeping to wake them.
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 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.”
The family, still wearing their pyjamas, took shelter at a neighbour’s house while fire crews battled to save their home.
Megan’s heroic tale is now being used by firefighters as a lesson to youngsters how to keep safe if a fire breaks out.
Lisa, a full-time carer for disabled 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 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.
“There will be no Christmas for us. All our plans have been ruined.”
Dad Roy, 48, who was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation said: “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.”
The family also tragically lost their pet hamster Squeak in the inferno alongside their clothes and possessions.
But they said they are trying to remain positive and praised their daughter’s heroic 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.
“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 in Blackpool, 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.”