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​Lessons learnt from devastating house fire
Sunday 2 July 2017 – 4:00 PM

The charred remnants of a Nollamara couples entire lives serve as reminder of the ferocious and devastating nature of fire in the home.

Walking through the damaged home, former resident Andrew Wilkinson could not help but consider the catastrophic outcome that could have resulted from the fire.

“It was literally in a couple of minutes (that the fire spread).

“We were actually very lucky to escape, very lucky,” Andrew said.

In the early hours of May 16 as he lay in his bed, Andrew felt like he was being enveloped by smoke.

After initially dismissing the smell as smoke he had been smelling in his suburb that day, he decided to go downstairs and investigate the source of the smell.

“I got dressed, got out of bed and it wasn’t until I got half way down the stairs that I heard that beep and I’m like, that noise, that’s a fire, that’s here,” he said.

He raced back upstairs, woke his partner Michael and grabbed the keys to their front door.

”Our place is locked up like Fort Knox at night time so I made sure I had the keys to get out,” he said.

“When (Michael) came down, he went into the laundry to see what was going on while I was unlocking the front door and he pushed that door open and the flames literally came out at him.”.

The fire is believed to have originated in the couples clothes dryer.

Thankfully Michael wasn’t injured and the couple escaped safely, but their story is unfortunately all too common, particularly in the cooler winter months.

Last winter fire crews battled 223 accidental house fires across the State, up nearly five per cent from the previous year.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) Fire Investigation and Analysis Unit (FIAU) District Officer Andy Duckworth said the risks associated with house fires were often underestimated and could prove deadly.

“Tragically four West Australians lost their lives and another 28 were injured last winter,” DO Duckworth said.

“Unfortunately people never think home fires will happen to them but the reality is that house fires can happen at any time.”

Andrew admits he too thought it would never happen to him but is hopeful his story can help others understand the risks associated with fire in the home.

“I don’t want anyone to experience what we’ve just gone through,” Andrew said.

“We have lost everything due to smoke damage. We walked away with the clothes we were wearing and that was it.”

District Officer Duckworth said there were simple proactive things people could do to protect their lives and property.

“Most home fires can be prevented with a bit of common sense,” he said.

“Don’t leave cooking or candles unattended, always clean the lint filter in your dryer and make sure you keep all materials at least one metre away from heaters and wood fireplaces.

“It is important to clean and maintain your smoke alarm once a month, replace the batteries once a year and replace the device every 10 years – it could give you a few extra minutes to get out of your home safely if a fire starts,” he said.

Both DO Duckworth and Andrew said having and practising a home fire escape plan was an important step to ensuring you and your family could get out of your home safely if disaster struck.


DEALING WITH A FIRE IN YOUR HOME

If a fire does start in your home and you can’t put it out safely, follow these steps: 

• Contain the fire and slow it from spreading by closing the door to the room if possible. 

• Alert and assist other people in the house to leave if it is safe to do so. 

• To avoid breathing in smoke keep down low and close to the floor. 

• Put your escape plan into action. 

• Before you open a closed door, feel it with the back of your hand. If it’s hot use another way to get out. 

• Leave your home and head to the safe place agreed on your plan, such as your letterbox. 

• Dial triple zero (000) immediately and alert your neighbours as necessary. 

• Remember, never go back into a burning house under any circumstances.​