A mother and her three children had to be rescued from their burning home in Oxford yesterday.

Fire crews arrived at Lyndworth Mews, in Headington, shortly after 4am following reports of a woman screaming for help from a second floor window.

Heavy smoke had engulfed her home and the young mother, who was woken by smoke alarms, was unable to reach her children.

Station manager David Heycock, of Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue, told the Oxford Mail it was a miracle no-one was seriously injured or even killed in the blaze.

He said: "She was leaning out the window screaming hysterically with smoke drifting around her.

"She was frantic and screaming that her children were in the building and she couldn't get to them, because of the smoke and heat."

Fire crews broke down the front door and immediately found the woman's eight-year-old son, whose bedroom was on the ground floor.

However, her two daughters, aged two and four, were still asleep on the second floor, next to their mother's bedroom, with flames and smoke blocking the staircase.

Mr Heycock said: "The boy was handed through the broken door and passed to waiting paramedics. It seemed like an eternity as I waited outside for the crews to carry out the rest of the search.

"It was such a relief when two young girls were handed through the broken door. The mother was then brought out.

"The boy wasn't too bad because he was downstairs. He was more shocked and frightened than anything else, but the girls had definitely taken in quite a bit of smoke."

The rescue operation took just six minutes. All four family members were treated at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital for smoke inhalation, but did not suffer any serious injury.

Mr Heycock said: "If it had been another five minutes, it could have been tragic. My lads were faultless."

He also said that without smoke alarms the family might well have died.

"I am convinced it was these that alerted neighbours and the family to the fire," he said. "For anybody who hears about this story, please use it as a prompt to either check that your smoke alarms work, or to get some fitted if you don't have any.

"Without them, the outcome would have been tragic."

The blaze started in the sitting room on the first floor of the property. Thames Valley Police are not treating the fire as suspicious.

Neighbour Pan Nelon, 21, said: "We were just sleeping and heard the police break in. It was very scary."

If you were the mother please call the Oxford Mail on 01865 425405.