Fatal fire threat prompts smoke alarm warning

An increase in Victorians who died in house fires last year has prompted an urgent smoke alarm warning by Victoria’s fire services.

Country Fire Authority and Fire Rescue Victoria data reveals 22 people died in preventable Victorian house fires last year, an increase from 16 the year before, and above the long-term annual average of 18.

The majority of the fires started at night, between 9pm and 6am, with 72 per cent starting in living areas and bedrooms.

Of note, half of the 18 properties where the fires broke out did not have working smoke alarms.

Firefighters say these tragic deaths reinforce CFA and FRV firefighters’ recommendation to install interconnected smoke alarms in all bedrooms, living areas and hallways.

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan said installing interconnected smoke alarms would ensure that when any alarm is activated, all smoke alarms in your home would sound.

“There is a clear increase in fatal fire risk in the rooms where people sleep and rest, with our data showing that over the past decade, fatal fires have most commonly started in bedrooms and living areas,” he said.

“We know only one-in-five Victorians have a smoke alarm in any bedroom and around 60 per cent have a smoke alarm in any living area.

“We want people to be aware there is a real and dangerous threat of fire in bedrooms and living areas because that’s where we most commonly see fatal house fires start.”

Acting Fire Rescue Commissioner Ken Brown said these heartbreaking and preventable deaths demonstrated why it was so important for Victorians to have working smoke alarms in their homes.

“Working smoke alarms offer you the best chance of surviving a fire, and without one your risk of dying in a house fire dramatically increases,” Acting Commissioner Brown said.

“We know most fatal fires start at night, and the smell of smoke will not wake you up, so it is crucial you have smoke alarms in all bedrooms, living areas and hallways.”

“For the best protection, smoke alarms should be interconnected so that all alarms sound in the event of a fire.”

In the past decade, Victorian firefighters have responded to more than 32,000 residential fires.

Statistics show that in the past 10 years, the kitchen was the most common room of fire ignition for nonfatal incidents, however, fires that caused serious injury or death most commonly started in lounge and bedroom areas.

Victorians can purchase interconnected smoke alarms at most local hardware stores.

Some are connected wirelessly, which don’t require hardwiring by an electrician.

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