Residents have again been warned about the importance of having smoke alarms and how they can save lives after two house fires occurred within a few hours of each other.

In both cases, occupants were alerted by alarms ensuring they could get out safely and firefighters could be alerted, ensuring the fires didn’t spread in the properties and cause major damage.

The incidents come in the run-up to Christmas, a time of year which presents its own particular risks. Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued advice to ensure families stay safe this season.

Firefighters were first alerted to Coburg Road in Dorchester at about 9.30am on Sunday after it was reported black smoke was coming from an upstairs window of a house. Crews, who were there within 10 minutes of receiving the call and donned breathing kits to tackle a fire in a bedroom. Nobody was hurt in the incident and smoke alarms had alerted the occupants to the blaze. A fire service spokesman said that an unattended candle caused the fire, and that a TV was also involved.

Weymouth firefighters were called to Chickerell Road near Budmouth Academy at about 1.30pm on the same day to reports of another house fire. Again, there was a fire on the first floor of the property. The resident had been alerted to the blaze by a smoke detector.

The crew rescued a dog from the building. They used extinguished the fire with two hose reel jets and a main line. Crews subsequently ventilated the property and checked for fire spread to the roof.

Station Manager Charlie Pack, who attended the Dorchester incident, said: “The working and well maintained smoke alarms in the property alerted the residents to the fire. We believe the cause of this incident to be an unattended candle. I would like to take the opportunity to remind residents that candles should never be left unattended when burning, please always ensure they are fully extinguished. It is also really important to place candles on an appropriate heat proof surface, when in use.”

“More information on candle fire safety can be found on our website”

The fire service is offering further advice for how homes can stay safe from fire in the Christmas season. Regarding Christmas lights, people should make sure that they are in working order, conform to the British Safety Standard, and that they are turned off at bedtime. People should also take care not to overload electrical sockets.

Other tips include: keeping decorations away from heat, keeping candles away from Christmas trees and children, not leaving cooking unattended, following safety instructions with fireworks, not smoking in bed, properly disposing of cigarettes, and, crucially, making sure that smoke alarms are working. Smoke alarms are the easiest way to alert you to the danger of fire, giving you time to escape. They are cheap, easy to get hold of, and simple to install. Alarms, which should be tested once a week, should be fitted on each floor of your home.

People are also advised to make sure they have an escape route planning in the event of an emergency.