96-year-old woman recalls her escape from heater fire – VIDEO - Blacktown

Published: 08 Jun 2022 03:52pm

A 96-year-old woman, who narrowly escaped a fire in her Blacktown home, has warned others to be extra careful around heaters this winter.

Connie Down was enjoying a sleep-in in her Oregon Street home last week when she decided to turn up the fan heater, a metre from her bed.

Without warning, the heater burst into flames, blocking her bedroom door and only escape route.

Connie was able to push the heater aside, without injury, and run outside to call for help.

“That heater just flared up… just exploded,” Connie said.

“The only thing I could do was just make a break for it… get out as fast as I could. For some people, they might not have made it.”

Fortunately, the smoke alarms in Connie’s home were in working order.

The alarms were heard by neighbours who called Triple Zero (000) and crews from the Blacktown Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) station were quickly on the scene to extinguish the heater and stop the fire spreading.

“It was just by the grace of God that I was able to get around it (the fire)… it was terrifying… it just scared the daylights out of me,” Connie said.

“It just took off like a rocket… all I could do was scream and think, ‘how do I get out?’.”

Connie says she’ll never use a heater in her bedroom again.

“I would rather stand out in the cold than do that because it’s just terrifying,” Connie said.

Connie’s warning to others comes as authorities in NSW investigate a fourth fire death in the first week of Fire Awareness Month.

Minister for Emergency Services and Resilience and Minister for Flood Recovery Steph Cooke said the tragic start to the month is a reminder to be extra aware of the risks this winter.

“I’m encouraging households across NSW to take simple precautions like making sure smoke alarms are working and keeping objects a ‘metre from the heater’ to stay warm but safe in these colder months,” Ms Cooke said.

FRNSW Superintendent Adam Dewberry is urging the public to heed the winter fire safety campaign and ‘Be Safe, Not Sorry’.

“The cold season averages around 1,100 residential fires each year in NSW.

“Please take the proper precautions to keep you and your family safe this winter,” Superintendent Dewberry said.

Connie’s experience serves to warn others about the dangers of heaters and the importance of having working smoke alarms in your home.
Other winter safety measures include:
- keep looking when cooking;
- don’t overload power boards;
- keep everything a metre from the heater;
- never use wheat bags to warm your bed;
- check electric blankets for frayed cords and other damage;
- don’t use outdoor heating and cooking equipment inside the home as it can be fatal;
- have a Home Escape Plan; and
- most importantly, if a fire does occur, get out, stay out and call Triple Zero (000). 
This winter, keep yourself and your loved ones safe by using the FRNSW Get Ready for Winter checklist at: www.fire.nsw.gov.au/winter.
For more information about home fire safety, visit: www.fire.nsw.gov.au/winter.

Media note: You can obtain the interview with Ms Down and supporting overlay here: https://vimeo.com/718134483/5c724c2a12 [external link]

Updated: 08 Jun 2022 03:52pm

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Details about this incident may change and should not be used as emergency information and/or advice.

For all life threatening emergencies, call Triple Zero (000)

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