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Elderly woman's death reminder to check smoke alarms

1 May, 2016

Elderly woman's death reminder to check smoke alarms, and get out fast.


Firefighters say the death of a 79-year old Whanganui woman following a house fire, last Thursday 22 April, could have been prevented with a working smoke alarm.

The woman was rescued by firefighters and taken to hospital in a critical condition after being revived at the scene, but subsequently died from her injuries.

18 people have now been killed in avoidable house fires since July 2015.

Whanganui Fire Service area commander Bernie Rush says a smoke alarm was located in the hallway but it did not contain a battery.

“It’s extremely disappointing, given two older women died in a similar way in 2014. Unfortunately history has repeated itself.”

Mr Rush says the woman called 111 after discovering the fire, which is believed to have been caused by an electric blanket in her bedroom.

“We strongly advise people to get out of the house first, and then call for help from a safe place nearby, because house fires can kill in minutes. The smoke is extremely toxic and can overwhelm people in seconds.”

He says a working smoke alarm would have given her more warning and more time to escape.

The Fire Service recommends people install photo-electric smoke alarms with a built-in long-life battery. They are particularly useful for rental properties because the batteries can’t be removed and don’t need to be replaced. Long-life photo-electric smoke alarms are also cheaper in the long run, because they last for up to 10 years.

Mr Rush also says electric blankets can occasionally cause fires, so they should be replaced every five years with newer heat-protected models, which are safer.

ends

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