A mother said her daughter and niece could have died from smoke inhalation after a wheelie bin was set on fire in an alleyway behind her home.
Samantha George, 29, of Shipley Road, Ifield, said her son Kyle saved his sister Daisie-May, 5, and cousin, Ruby George, 7, who were asleep when smoke filled their room during a firefighters’ strike.
She said: “If my ten-year-old was asleep we wouldn’t have known any different.
“They wouldn’t have woken up.
“He saved my little girl and my little niece.”
Samantha and her partner Lee Brown, 43, were watching TV downstairs when Kyle alerted them to the danger after 11pm on May 4.
Daisie-May and Ruby, who was visiting her cousin, slept while their room on the first floor filled with smoke coming in from a small open window.
Samantha said: “It absolutely stunk in there.”
West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS) attended after the fire was out.
Samantha said: “The fire brigade said if it had been ten minutes my girls would’ve needed hospital treatment - if they weren’t already dead.”
Kyle and his brother, Mason, 2, slept in a different room.
Samantha noticed the wheelie bin in her front garden was missing after she and Lee ruled out the fire started in their home.
She said: “I checked down the alleyway and saw it was all on fire.”
The bin was carried from the front garden to the alleyway between the house and its conservatory.
Samantha said: “To realise somebody had put that there, it was terrifying. I was sick in the garden.”
Lee carried the still burning bin to their front garden after he doused the flames with water from a washing up bowl.
Samantha said: “I was screaming at him.
“As he put it down it burst into flames.”
Samantha and Lee put the fire out together.
The fire happened while firefighters’ were taking industrial action because of an ongoing dispute with the Government over pensions.
A WSFRS spokesman said a retained crew from Midhurst were called to the scene at 11.48pm.
Samantha said the crew did not arrive until around 12.15am.
The spokesman said the fire was out on arrival.
None of the family needed medical treatment.
Kyle was disturbed by the fire.
Samantha said: “He was crying and shaking.
“He didn’t sleep, he was very worried.”
The other children went to sleep.
She said: “We just told them a drunk had put a cigarette in the bin, they don’t need to know that kind of stuff.”
Samantha said she relived the fear of that night when the bins were collected. She said: “It’s the noise of the bins, I’m looking out the window.”
Samantha, a full-time mother, said she and Lee, a ground worker, bought £500 worth of CCTV and security lights for their home following the fire.
Lee’s father, Robert Brown, 65, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, also lives with them.
A spokesman for Sussex Police said it was investigating the incident.
The spokesman said: “The fire is being treated as deliberate.
“Anyone who saw what happened is asked to contact police via 101 or email firstname.lastname@example.org quoting serial 0007 of 4/5.”