More than 70 per cent of fatal house fires start in bedrooms and living areas according to data from CFA and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), prompting fire agencies to encourage Victorians to consider additional smoke alarms in bedrooms, living areas and hallways.
While many Victorians don't have working smoke alarms in these locations, a Middle Park couple’s narrow escape from a house fire has served as a reminder of the dangers of fire while people are sleeping.
In early November, Ron Burggraf and Teresa Kuczynska escaped unharmed from their home after a smoke alarm alerted them to a fire.
“My partner and I went to bed as normal, and at about 1.00am I was woken by a smoke alarm in our upstairs gym sounding,” Ron said.
“I went to investigate and found the gym filled with smoke. When I opened the nearby roof space, I was confronted by a massive fire ball.
“There was nothing I could do other than waking my wife who was still fast asleep in our bedroom and getting us out,” Ron said.
While Ron and Teresa’s smoke alarms met legal requirements, their experience is an example of why firefighters are calling on the community to install additional smoke alarms in all sleeping areas, ensuring that early warning is provided during a fire.
“I was lucky to be woken by the faint sound because the smoke alarm was upstairs,” said Ron.
“The fire brigade was on scene in around five minutes, but I shudder to think what would have happened to us if I was not woken by the smoke alarm because the fire spread quickly through the roof space which was in line with our bedroom.”
“When we rebuild, we are going to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, living room and hallway.”
Ron said he checked their smoke alarms and changed the batteries annually, which proved to be lifesaving.
“It was a horrific experience and one that stays with you long after the fire has been extinguished. But thankfully, we’re alive today because our working smoke alarms woke me,” Ron said.
Today marks the start of a new campaign from CFA, FRV, and the Victorian Government, encouraging Victorians to consider smoke alarms as a bedroom essential.
The campaign will air across print, radio, and social platforms, and promotes the relatively low cost of smoke alarms.
CFA Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook said Victorian firefighters recommend smoke alarms are installed in every bedroom and living area, as well as hallways.
“People lose their sense of smell when they are sleeping, and the carbon monoxide in smoke will put you into a deeper sleep,” said A/CO Cook.
“Without a working smoke alarm in bedrooms and living areas, you may not wake up.
“Regardless of what type of smoke alarm is installed, all units should be tested every month, and replaced every 10 years.
“It takes just a few moments to test if your smoke alarm is in working order, but those few moments could save your life.”
Fire Rescue Victoria Deputy Commissioner Michelle Young said you are far more likely to die or be seriously injured if a fire started in your bedroom or living area when you were asleep.
“Within just 60 seconds, a fire can quickly take hold, giving off toxic smoke and spreading rapidly,” Deputy Commissioner Young said.
“Having smoke alarms installed in all bedrooms, hallways and living areas are your best line of defence, alerting you promptly and buying you and your family precious time to escape.”
For the latest information on smoke alarms visit frv.vic.gov.au or cfa.vic.gov.au.
CFA and FRV data reveals:
- 72 per cent of fatal house fires start in living rooms and sleeping areas.
- Most fatal house fires (67%) occur at night between 9pm and 6am.
Smoke alarm tips:
- Victorian fire and rescue services recommend additional smoke alarms are installed in every living area and bedroom.
- Research by Fire and Rescue NSW indicates that in all their tests where the fire started in the bedroom with the door closed, the hallway smoke alarms did not activate at all.
- Regardless of the type of smoke alarm you have, all smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.
- Legislation requires smoke alarms to be installed outside every sleeping area and on each level of a house.
- Fire services recommend smoke alarms be interconnected where possible, so that when any alarm activates, all smoke alarms will sound.
- Fire services also recommend the use of smoke alarms powered by a 10-year lithium battery.
- Replaceable batteries in a smoke alarm need to be changed yearly.
- Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling at least 30cm from the wall, or where installed on the wall at least 30cm from the ceiling to avoid dead air space.
- Smoke alarms should be tested monthly as per the manufacturer’s guide, by pressing the test button on the alarm and wait for the test alarm to sound.
- Smoke alarms should be cleaned at least once a year with a duster or vacuum cleaner to remove particles that will affect smoke alarm performance.