Fareham house set on fire after owner finds smoke alarm cut

Gemma Keefe standing by the aftermath of the fire
Gemma Keefe standing by the aftermath of the fire
Hampshire chief constable Olivia Pinkney

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DETECTIVES have launched an investigation after a woman’s smoke alarm was tampered with before her house was set on fire.

It comes as mum Gemma Keefe had reported a string of suspicious incidents at her Fareham home, including a burglary.

The 27-year-old was at home with her three-year-old son Ryan, when she smelled smoke.

She rushed outside to get help from neighbours as she couldn’t find the fire.

She then called friends who found the blaze in the downstairs storage room.

Gemma told The News: ‘If it wasn’t for them I would’ve been dead.’

She added: ‘We had quilts in there and that helped the fire. It was terrifying.’

It happened at around 10am yesterday morning.

Gemma said she thought she heard someone nearby as she came out of her home.

But just an hour before, Gemma and her friend Michael Craddock, 23, had discovered a wire in the smoke alarm had been cut.

Michael and another friend, Coral Gray, 18, had left the house – but Gemma called them back in a panic.

The pair rushed back to the home in Patchway Drive.

Michael said: ‘I found a bit of tissue on fire on the sill of the door.’

Coral went inside the house and opened the connecting door to the storage room, where the fire was.

Smoke billowed out, filling the end-of-terrace home.

Coral said: ‘The smoke was unbelievable.

‘I got everybody out of the house.

‘I stayed in there for three minutes and got the rabbit out.’

Ambulance crews treated her for smoke inhalation.

Michael added: ‘There were big flames and I called the fire brigade.’

A crew from Fareham was called at 10.15am and arrived within minutes.

Gemma’s mum Rita Keefe was called soon afterwards.

She said: ‘My daughter could’ve been burnt alive.’

Police arrived later and taped off the area.

It comes after Gemma’s home was burgled overnight on June 25, with an iPhone and iPad stolen.

The burglar also left the front and back door open. No-one was arrested.

Gemma said the burglary left her son terrified and shaking at home.

Further suspicious incidents were then reported to the police.

Sergeant Phil Hall was in charge of the scene yesterday morning.

He said the cause of the fire was suspicious.

He said: ‘We were contacted by the fire brigade in connection with this incident.

‘The cause at this moment is doubtful.

‘We will arrange for scenes of crime and also fire investigation to come out and inspect.’

Call police on 101 if you have any information about the fire or the burglary.