Elderly warned of home fire danger

Published: 22nd March 2010

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan today urged older residents to review their home fire safety measures throughout Seniors Week.

Mr Whan congratulated Erina resident, Majorie Wells, 85, for her quick action to extinguish a fire that began as she was preparing dinner on the evening of January 25.

"A small kitchen fire had taken hold when sausages were grilling and fat ignited," Mr Whan said.

"Mrs Wells used a fire blanket to smother the flames and were it not for her quick-thinking actions, the fire could have completely destroyed her unit or worse."

Mrs Wells said she had the confidence and skills to extinguish the flames after attending a senior fire safety presentation with the NSW Fire Brigades (NSWFB) at the Guild Club in Gosford last October.

"I saw foot-tall flames make their way up the front of my stove," Mrs Wells said.

"I felt confident to put the fire out because I knew what to do after a recent talk with firefighters and I had practice using a fire blanket. I was so quick the smoke alarm didn’t even go off!"

Mr Whan said NSWFB’s fire research had identified a number of concerning trends in relation to house fires and older residents.

"It is a tragic fact that older people - those aged over 65 - make up one in three fire deaths in NSW and these occur predominantly during the colder months of winter. 

"The NSWFB responds to more than 4,800 residential fires each year and the home kitchen is the scene of almost half these fires, often as a result of cooking being left unattended on the stove.

"We have nearly a million senior citizens in this State alone and with an ageing population and this significant fire risk, we all have to be vigilant to try to reduce the potential for tragedy."

NSWFB Commissioner Greg Mullins said improving fire safety for seniors would be the Fire Brigade’s focus throughout Seniors Week - March 21 to 28 - with firefighters actively working in their communities to help and inform elderly residents.

"A working smoke alarm, together with a home escape plan can greatly increase your chance of escaping a fire in your home and it is absolutely vital to practice this plan, especially for those with reduced mobility," he said.    

"Seniors who have difficulty hearing should consider installing special smoke alarms which have a flashing strobe light and a vibrating pad that is placed under the pillow, and activates when the smoke alarm operates. 

"If older people need help with their smoke alarms, we have a special program called SABRE, the Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement program, under which firefighters can change the smoke alarm batteries for elderly and immobile residents."

Kitchen fire demonstrations during Seniors Week will include:
2010 Premier's Seniors Week Gala Concerts for individuals   
When: 10.30am and 2.30pm Monday 22 March 2010
Where: Sydney Entertainment Centre

L!VESITES Program - Newcastle City Council   
When: 11.50am, Monday 22 March 2010
Where: City Hall, Civic Theatre, Playhouse, Wheeler Place, Honeysuckle.

Seniors Bushwalk - Hurstville City Council
When: 11.15am and 1.15pm Monday 22 March
Where: HV Evatt Park Lugarno

2010 Premier's Seniors Week Gala Concerts for groups
When: 11.00am, Tuesday 23 March 2010
Where: Sydney Entertainment Centre

L!VESITES Program - Newcastle City Council
When: 11.50am, Tuesday 23 March 2010 and 12.15pm,
Where: Wednesday 24 March 2010     City Hall, Civic Theatre, Playhouse, Wheeler Place, Honeysuckle