An instincitve pet dog was hailed a hero after sounding the alarm and saving the family of a Lakes hotelier when fire swept through their Grange-over-Sands home.

South Lakes Hotels owner Jonathan Denby said he was very proud of five-year-old Pepper who alerted wife Margaret to the ‘terrifying’ bathroom blaze.

She suffered smoke inhalation which made her breathless as she dialled 999.

Mr Denby, who was away at the time, said: “My wife was struggling to breathe as she went to the phone, so who knows what would have happened had it been a few minutes later. The whole house would have gone. Pepper really did save the day.”

Mrs Denby said she did not smell any smoke as she settled down to watch television in her living room for a ‘quiet’ Friday night with her two daughters, Sara, 14 and Georgina, 18.

“I had got myself comfortable and the girls were downstairs in their bedrooms,” she said.

“I did hear a bang, which I now know was some sort of cosmetic or deodorant exploding, but at the time I put it down to the weather or fireworks. Pepper obviously heard it though.

“She kept barking and I thought she just wanted to go outside, but she was very agitated and wouldn’t give up – she knew something was wrong and just sat barking by the bedroom door.”

Eventually Mrs Denby gave into the canine’s yapping, and found what she now knows was a Jacuzzi fire in her en-suite bathroom.

“I opened the door, which was the biggest mistake, because the smoke and fumes just hit me. They singed my face.

“It was terrifying but my main priority was to get the girls out. Pepper already knew – she got herself out.

“You hear of animals saving people’s lives and that really was the case – she brought my attention to it and if she hadn’t it could have been much worse. She is a hero.”

The bedroom and bathroom have been left a shell, the whole house covered in a layer of soot, and Mrs Denby lost all her clothes in the inferno.

It has prompted fire officers to renew calls for people to test their smoke alarms, and have said had they been working in the Denby household, the response could have been a lot faster.

They also told Mr Denby that had the fire started when his wife was asleep, she would have been dead without an alarm warning.

Mrs Denby said it was ‘just an oversight’ that the detectors were not in order.

“Of course now I will get a working smoke alarm fitted very soon. I would also say to other people you just do not know when it is going to happen,” she said.

Alan Maguire of Barrow fire station, added: “People are four times more likely to die in a house fire where there are no working alarms.

“I think once people get them they think that’s it, they will work. But they need to be checked ideally once a week, and at least once a month. Batteries also need to be changed once a year.

“The government are encouraging people to check their detectors when they change their clocks this month - it will take seconds but it could save a life.”