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Two injured, smoke alarm unscathed

Two injured, smoke alarm unscathed

January 24 2008

The surprising discovery of a beeping smoke alarm amongst the ashes of a razed Wellington home is a poignant reminder of their value over the summer season.

Porirua District senior station officer, Trevor Sheehan said that firefighters combing through the charred debris at the Porirua house, discovered the only item that survived the intense heat was a smoke alarm - still beeping.

“As we did our final checks through what remained of the house we heard a smoke alarm beeping from under the ashes on the bedroom floor.

The plastic on the outside of the smoke alarm had melted in the 1000 degree inferno but the battery and internal mechanism still functions.

A man and child were injured in the blaze and taken to hospital with serious burns. Two other children were saved.

Fire investigators suspect the cause of the blaze was children playing with matches.

“Fires started by unattended children playing with matches are so unnecessary. Parents should be vigilant and make children aware that matches and lighters are tools not toys. This fire caused $100,000 damage to the property alone - excluding contents. The family were not insured.

The Fire Service deals with 500 house fires in the Wellington region each year (see table over page for other regions). Smoke alarms significantly reduce the number of fatalities from these fires by alerting occupants to the danger. Since this time last year, 20 people have been killed in fires in houses, most of which did not have a functioning smoke alarm.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to install smoke alarms – they save countless lives. Fortunately no one was killed in this case thanks to the smoke alarm alerting the adult to the fire,” said Mr Sheehan.

Residential structure fires in 2007 calendar year:

Northland 119
Auckland 896
Bay/Waikato (Bay of Plenty, Waikato) 454
Western (Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu) 308
Eastern (Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay) 220
Arapawa (greater Wellington region, Nelson/Marlborough) 569
Transalpine (West Coast, Canterbury) 499
Southern (Otago, Southland) 356
All regions 3,421


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