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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Households warned against smoke alarm complacency

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Burning house. Fire and Rescue NSW.

Firefighters, NRL stars and other top athletes are urging households across the state to make sure they have working smoke alarms fitted in their homes, as Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) launches its annual Winter Fire Safety Campaign.

New figures reveal that last winter, nearly half (49 per cent) of the 1,080 homes that were impacted by fire did not have a working smoke alarm, or any alarm, in place.

The most residential fires last winter occurred in Canterbury-Bankstown (243), closely followed by the inner city (Sydney – 241), the Central Coast (235) and Blacktown (228), with kitchen fires the most common.

Winter in 2022 was particularly deadly for house fires, with a record 17 deaths – more than four times the total of the previous winter – and 87 people injured. During that season, exactly half of the 959 houses that caught alight did not have a working smoke alarm.

Smoke Alarm Action Day

FRNSW is amping up its efforts to warn people about the dangers of smoke alarm complacency, enlisting the help of sports stars in a social media campaign to better connect with communities and establishing its own awareness day, Smoke Alarm Action Day.

Sports stars including netball star Maddy Turner (NSW Swifts/Australian Diamonds) and a range of NRL players including Tom Burgess (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Jaydn Su’A (St George Illawarra Dragons), Stephen Crichton and Georgia Ravics (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), and Suia Wong and Keeley Davis (Sydney Roosters), will feature in social media video messages encouraging households to fit a smoke alarm in their home or have their existing alarm checked.

FRNSW will hold its inaugural Smoke Alarm Action Day on 1 June to kick off the agency’s Winter Fire Safety Campaign and mark the commencement of a dangerous period for house fires.

FRNSW also conducts community outreach programs to engage culturally and linguistically diverse communities in smoke alarm and fire safety messaging.

Residents can book a home fire safety visit when firefighters can install smoke alarms free of charge and find further advice on the FRNSW website at www.fire.nsw.gov.au/visits.

Play it safe

Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib said, ‘Having at least one working smoke alarm installed in your home will help safeguard your loved ones and provide peace of mind.

‘But the alarms must be in working order to be effective, and we are finding this isn’t the case a lot of the time. In their home safety visits, firefighters have been finding outdated and broken smoke alarms, with some even hanging from ceilings by wires.

‘I encourage residents to book a fire safety visit from a firefighter, who can install an alarm for free or make sure your alarm is functioning properly.’

FRNSW Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said, ‘We understand that people are busy these days but making sure you have a functioning smoke alarm in your home should be a priority, especially as we enter winter.

‘We’re particularly concerned about the number of fires occurring in the kitchen, which was 44 per cent of cases last winter. You’ve got to keep looking while you’re cooking – don’t get distracted and if a fire breaks out, whatever you do, don’t throw water onto it, the flames will flare up dramatically.

‘Keep a fire blanket near the kitchen to smother flames if they occur,’ he said.

Rural and regional risk

NSW Rural Fire Service Assistant Commissioner Stuart Midgley said, ‘It is important that people in rural and regional areas have a working smoke alarm and know what to do if there is a fire in their home.

‘In rural areas, emergency services often have to travel considerable distances to respond to house fires,’ he said.

‘Smoke alarms and a home escape plan can give you valuable seconds to make it out alive.’

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