Rising death toll sounds fire alarm
Home safety fears
DEATHS and property damage from preventable house fires have risen in the space of a year, according to new data.
Figures from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade and Country Fire Authority show there were 3098 avoidable fires recorded in homes across Victoria in 2016, responsible for 14 fatalities and $88.6 million in property damage.
While the total number of fires dropped last year, more lives were lost than in 2015, when nine fatalities and $74.7 million in damage were recorded.
The statistics are an all-tooreal reminder for Stephen Reardon, a CFA volunteer whose home at Spargo Creek burnt to the ground in April.
“It was an electric fault, apparently in a lead under the bed,” he said.
“The speed of it was the most disconcerting. I could smell it before the fire alarm went off.
“I raced through the house, saw the bedside table and side of the bed were on fire, grabbed the fire extinguisher and, as I opened the door again, it flashed straight over my head.
“There was nothing stupid about it (the cause of the blaze) so it just shows it could happen to anyone and how ready you have to be no matter who you are.”
Mr Reardon said the local community had rallied around his family in the aftermath of the fire.
“What’s given us the most grief is that we didn’t have copies of anything in terms of identification and records outside of the house,” he said. “We didn’t even have a phone or num- bers to call our children and let them know we were safe.”
Data also shows that more than 40 per cent of house fires in Victoria happen in the kitchen, with CFA chief officer Steve Warrington warning that unattended cooking was a hazard all year round.
He said it was a myth that the majority of fires occurred in summer.
“As the weather cools down, people bring out their heaters, turn on their electric blankets and stoke up their wood fires,” he said.
“This means we see a spike in heating-related fires.”
MFB acting chief officer Paul Stacchino said more needed to be done to reduce fire risks.
“There are still more than 3000 fires in Victoria each year which are mostly avoidable.
“Last year 14 people died in preventable house fires in our state. That’s 14 grieving families living without their loved ones.
“This isn’t a number our community should accept.”
Stephen Reardon, a CFA volunteer, is one of the thousands of fire victims reported in 2016 and is thankful to have made it out safely. Picture: JAY TOWN