It was a cold Sunday in January. We had decided to wrap up the children and spend the day at the seaside town of Howth in North Dublin. It was one of my first trips out with my newborn, the two other children were so excited to watch the boats at the harbour and we were having a wonderful day. 
That was until we pulled into the driveway and saw eight-foot flames coming from the roof of our house.
The timing of our arrival back had meant that a fire brigade hadn't been called (our neighbours live further away). My husband jumped out of the car and ran for the front door. Trying to stay calm for the sake of the children but completely freaking out, I screamed after him not to go in. 
With shaking hands, I called the fire brigade, shocked I was going to say the words, 'my house is on fire, please, please hurry'. 
At this stage, my husband emerged with a rag over his face as the smoke was billowing out. I could hear the smoke alarm beeping loudly and frantically. I also called my brother who arrived within minutes of the fire service. Three units of the fire brigade tore up the road and started putting out the flames. 
I had taken the children out of the car and we were standing in the lane beside our house so they couldn't see the fire. A kind fireman asked if we wanted to climb into their support unit. Not only was it freezing but I had the newborn in my arms and two very confused toddlers. I pulled myself together and made it a game. 'Isn't this fun!' I exclaimed, 'everything is just fine, these men are just helping us out!'
We eventually made it to a relatives house where my sister-in-law gave me cups of very sugary tea and once I got the kids to bed (in their day clothes)I broke down. My husband and brother remained with the fire-service who told them we were so lucky not to have been there at the time. If we had, the 4 smoke alarms we had in our house would have saved us, but it would have been so much more traumatic for all of us. I felt hugely lucky yet completely unlucky at the same time. 
We ended up staying with relatives for three months which is really hard with three children, one of whom is a tiny baby. The next day I went back to assess the damage. I never brought the children back until the house was fully redone so they never saw the extent of the damage.
My husband had kindly told me it 'wasn't THAT bad' but I burst into silent tears when I saw my lovely house charred, glass broken, everything burnt and even the rooms that weren't burnt were ruined with smoke damage. Everything we had lovingly done to our home was in pieces. It was extremely emotional.
The thing that struck me the most was when I moved a pair of baby shoes that had been on a window still and the mark that was left gave me goosebumps. We had a lucky escape.
Since this happened to us, I have now come up with a family fire safety plan. I'd advise others to do the same.
1. Identify two ways out of every room, if possible: Then go over the plan with children ages 5 and older. For younger children, they may not understand a plan, so it’s suggested to walk around your home and show your children where the exits are and how they'll get out. Your secondary, or alternate, exit can be another door or window.  Items that block doors and windows in your home could keep you from escaping in the event of a home fire so make sure you unblock your exits today.
2. Designate a safe Meeting Place: A "Safe Meeting Place" is a designated location outside the home where your family will gather once outside the home. Choose an outside meeting place (i.e. neighbour's house, electricity pole, boundary wall etc) a safe distance in front of your home where everyone can meet after they've escaped. Make sure to mark the location of the meeting place on your escape plan.
3. Teach your kids to "get low and go:" Have children practice escaping from each room by crouching down very low and crawling along the perimeter of the room to an exit. Make sure your child understands that this technique is different from "stop, drop, and roll," which is what children should do if an item of clothing catches fire.
4. Have everyone memorise the 999 phone number: That way any member of the household can call from a mobile once outside.
5. Make sure you have all your alarms working. Practice your home fire escape plan twice a year, making the drill as realistic as possible and make sure your batteries are working on all your safety alarms. 
I am proof that sometimes this does happen. The cause of our fire ended up being because of a wood-burning stove that was incorrectly fitted. 
It broke my heart seeing all our belongings in a charred mess on the ground, and it has taken me a very long time to get over this ordeal - but at least our most precious belongings, our children, are still safe in our arms.