Fire dash as Blairs' toast goes up in smoke

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The Independent Online

Three fire engines raced to Tony and Cherie Blair's home in Buckinghamshire after smoke was seen billowing from the £6m property. The cause of the alarm: four incinerated slices of toast.

Although Mrs Blair tried to abort the automated emergency call, triggered by a smoke alarm in the Grade I-listed property, firefighters from the nearby village of Wotton Underwood were swiftly followed by a crew from Aylesbury and another from nearby Thame. The three fire crews left after giving staff tips on fire-safety precautions to employ at the Blairs' 18th-century mansion, South Pavilion.

A spokesperson for the couple said: "The Blairs were cooking breakfast when the smoke alarm went off. Because they live in a Grade I-listed building, the smoke alarm is automatically connected to the local fire station, so the fire brigade sprang into action immediately.

"In fact, it was just smoke without a fire but by the time Mrs Blair rang the fire service to tell them they did not need to come, they were already on their way. [It was] all rather embarrassing and she'll certainly be sending them a big thank you note."

The incident is unlikely to have improved relations between the former prime minister and his neighbours in the village. Since he moved there in 2008, the village has been designated a secure area under the Terrorism Act. Some residents have reportedly been upset by the presence of the Blairs' bodyguards, and plans to expand the building.

The seven-bedroom house, which was owned by the actor Sir John Gielgud until his death in 2000, is the fifth property in the Blairs' portfolio. They have two homes in London and two flats in Bristol, and have sold Mr Blair's former constituency home in County Durham.