A FAMILY of seven has been made homeless after a blaze which almost claimed the lives of a woman and two of her children.

Lesley Shannon, 32, her three-year-old daughter Lucy, eldest son Michael, 13, and his friend Philip Bell were forced to flee after the bathroom blaze at their rented home in Livesey Branch Road, Blackburn.

Lesley said today: "If we had not got out when we did we would not be here now."

The rest of the family - dad Arthur, and children Ben, 11, Christopher, nine, and Jason, 5 - returned home to find the first floor and attic room of the house gutted.

Lesley said: "Arthur was at the pub celebrating his 30th birthday and the other children were at school.

"I heard a popping noise and we could smell burning. Michael opened the living room door and said the bathroom was on fire.

"Straight away I panicked, but I dialled 999 and got everybody out. The black smoke came in a matter of minutes. It filled the street."

The fire, thought to have been caused by an overheating immersion heater, destroyed the bathroom and caused smoke damage to bedrooms on the first floor and in the loft.

Blackburn Fire Station sub-officer Tom Davies said: "Some of the family were sitting downstairs at the time and did not realise what was going on.

"If it had happened at night with the lack of smoke detectors in the house we would have had seven fatalities on our hands."

The family stayed with relatives in Blackburn last night and were hoping to be rehoused.

Lesley said: "We have no clothes or anything - only what we were wearing. We have lost everything that was upstairs."

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.