Saved by smoke detector

The remains of the Wandin North home from the Easter Monday fire.

A Wandin North family’s escape from a house fire on Easter Monday has prompted calls from fire and rescue services for Victorians to install interconnected smoke alarms in every bedroom, hallway and living area.

Data from Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) reveals most fatal house fires start in living and sleeping areas, but a concerning number of Victorians still do not have working smoke alarms in these locations.

Brendan Pratt, Amanda Bews and their three children were alerted to a fire that ignited in the downstairs storage area of their home and safely evacuated before fire crews arrived on scene.

“We went to bed as normal and just after 12.30am we were woken by smoke alarms in our hallways sounding,” Mr Pratt said.

While their smoke alarms met the legal requirements, the family’s experience is why firefighters are calling on the community to install interconnected alarms that provide vital early warning during a fire.

“My wife, Amanda, and two of our sons evacuated. I rushed to grab our youngest child, James, who was still fast asleep in his bedroom where smoke was filling, and fire was visible as it travelled up the heating duct,” Mr Pratt said.

“The smell of smoke didn’t wake him and regrettably, there wasn’t a smoke alarm installed in his room.”

“In hindsight, had we installed interconnected smoke alarms in our bedrooms and the downstairs area where the fire ignited, we would have been alerted much earlier and possibly could have saved our home.”

“When we rebuild, we are going to install interconnected smoke alarms in every bedroom, living room and hallway.”

Mr Pratt said he and his family frequently checked their smoke alarms and changed the batteries, which proved to be life-saving.

“Our family is alive today because our working smoke alarms woke us,” he said.

A recent fire services survey of 1250 Victorians revealed that only 16 per cent of people had smoke alarms in their bedrooms, while 44 per cent of people do not have a smoke alarm in any living room. Just 17 per cent of people surveyed had interconnected smoke alarms installed.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said this was a timely reminder for Victorians to install interconnected smoke alarms so when one alarm activates, all alarms will sound.

“Interconnected smoke alarms should be installed in every bedroom, hallway and living area for your family’s best protection,” CO Heffernan said.

“In the past 10 years, Victorian firefighters have responded to more than 32,000 residential fires. That is why it is vital all Victorians take the necessary precautions and install smoke alarms in the recommended locations.

“It takes just a few moments out of your day to test if your smoke alarm is in working order,” CO Heffernan said.

Fire Rescue Commissioner Ken Block said you were 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.”

“Interconnected smoke alarms 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,” Commissioner Block said.

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