Crews were called to a house in Horwich after a fire started underneath floorboards. 

At 2.30am three fire engines arrived to a smoke-filled semi-detached house on Brazley Avenue. The owners had escaped the building thanks to their smoke alarm.

Using breathing apparatus, fire fighters entered the building but had great difficulty in locating the source of the fire.

Eventually, thanks to thermal imaging and fire investigation dog Eric, they realised it had started underneath the ground floor, in a space for piping and wiring.

Fire crews suspect the fire had been smouldering away for several hours while the owners were sleeping.

The situation was aggravated by the fact that clothes had been stored in the space, acting as a fuel for the blaze.

The fire was put out by crews after four hours, and the fire service has issued an important safety message.

Watch manager Gleaves said: "We attended a building on fire on Brazley Avenue in Horwich at 2.30am.

"It was a two-storey, semi-detached property. It was very unusual for us because when we arrived the building was full of smoke, with smoke escaping through an open upstairs window.

"Crews went in with breathing apparatus but they struggled to find the cause of the fire.

"Thermal imagining revealed that the fire was underneath the ground floor, in a void which most properties have to allow air flow.

"We believe the fire started accidentally due to faulty wires, it could have been smouldering away for a while.

"Luckily they had a working smoke alarm so they were able to get out, as they were sleeping it was important they were alerted, but we could have been dealing with a much worse situation.

"One thing which could have been a contributing factor, was that the owners had been using the space to store unwanted clothes, which acted as fuel for the fire.

"If it had just been pipes and wiring it would not have burned away like it did.

"It was a very unusual situation, with a house fire like that we expect to find a couch burning, something visible.

"We even had to get Eric the fire investigation dog out, the usual dog we use didn't want to get up at 2.30am in the morning.

"We were there for just over four hours and left at 6.30am.

"We advise the public to always have a working smoke alarm, and not to store anything in underfloor spaces."