Introducing the ‘Smoke Alarm King’ – a South Coast firefighter saving lives through home safety education - Ulladulla

Published: 12 Sep 2022 03:43pm

A veteran Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) firefighter has visited more than 400 homes during a one-person mission to save lives and protect property on the state’s South Coast.

Station Officer John Matthews has worked out of Avalon on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for 30 years, more recently commuting to and from the South Coast town he now calls home.

When he sustained a shoulder injury on the job in July, he was briefly out of action, before returning to light duties in Ulladulla.

Station Officer Matthews was initially tasked with using a computer database to identify areas where other firefighters could focus their home fire safety visits.

“Instead of just sitting at a desk, drilling into statistics and identifying target locations, I thought the best thing I could do was actually conduct some visits,” he said.

In less than a month, Station Officer Matthews singlehandedly called in to more than 400 local homes, imparting his fire safety knowledge on others.

“I was able to install new smoke alarms in homes that didn’t have them, check that existing alarms were in good working condition, and offer advice to many elderly residents and vulnerable communities,” he said.

“The people I spoke with were very grateful that FRNSW offers this service, free of charge, and it’s nice to know my efforts may go on to save lives.”

Station Officer Matthews has since returned to his normal duties in Sydney, where he will continue to inspire others to carry out this important work.

FRNSW is urging communities across NSW to not be complacent about potential risks just because winter has ended.

NSW recorded a record 16 house fire fatalities between June and August.
FRNSW is encouraging residents to book in a Home Safety Visit to protect themselves and their loved ones. This can be arranged by visiting the FRNSW website or calling your local fire station.

EDITORS NOTE: An image of Station Officer Matthews is available via the FRNSW website.

Updated: 30 Jan 2023 09:14pm

listView more incidents

Related safety topics

Smoke alarms

It“s the law to have at least one working smoke alarm installed on every level of your home.

Escape plans

Having a home escape plan and a working smoke alarm increases your chances of getting out safely.

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)

For flood information, warnings or requests for non-life threatening assistance, call the SES on 132 500 or visit the NSW State Emergency Service website here. [external link].

For information directly relating to bushfires please call the Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or visit the NSW Rural Fire Service Website here. [external link]

Stations nearby

ULLADULLA Fire Station

46 Nurrawallee, Ulladulla NSW 2539


1 Heradale Parade, Batemans Bay NSW 2536


1/34 Norfolk Avenue, Nowra NSW 2541