The Illawarra has had a five-year spike in house fires, with 25 homes severely damaged or destroyed so far this winter.
Data shows around 40 per cent of homes destroyed did not have a working smoke alarm.
Read more: Illawarra court and crime stories here
Firefighters are so concerned about the statistics, that they've teamed up with the Illawarra Mercury to provide free smoke alarms and home safety checks for residents.
There is no catch, the smoke alarms are free and so is the fire safety advice.
What's on offer
- Firefighters will check your smoke alarm is in good working condition and installed in suitable areas
- If you do not have one, firefighters will install a long-life battery-powered smoke alarm as well as replace existing smoke alarm batteries, all at no cost
- With your permission, firefighters will also ask you to show them around your home and property. This allows them to give you personalised fire safety advice.
- Scroll to bottom of story to request a free smoke alarm
"Everything's free because from a Fire and Rescue perspective, we'd much rather be able to provide you a free smoke alarm, free advice on fire safety in your household," Fire and Rescue NSW Illawarra Zone Commander Superintendent Peter Church said.
"We'd much rather just come when there's not an emergency, rather than you see us turning up when there's a fire."
Smoke inhalation is an often-used term during a fire, but Supt Church said it can "absolutely" kill you very easily.
"You can't smell smoke when you sleep, it's an asphyxiant," he said.
"By the time you're made aware that this is a fire, generally you've got to run through the smoke to get out.
"That's why it's so important to have working smoke alarms, particularly in your bedroom, because you need that early notification that there is fire so that you can get out safely."
Of the 25 house fires in the Illawarra to July 24 this year, 10 homes did not have a working smoke alarm.
You can't smell smoke when you sleep, it's an asphyxiant.- Fire and Rescue NSW Illawarra Zone Commander Superintendent Peter Church
In 2022 there were 21 house fires in the region, three homes did not having a working smoke alarm.
In 2021 there were 15 house fires (five without an alarm), in 2020 there were 15 residential fires (eight without an alarm), and in 2019 there were 21 fires (six without an alarm).
Supt Church has been a firefighter for decades and attended many fatal house fires, yet he can't understand why so many homes don't have a working smoke alarm.
In some cases batteries have been removed or expired, or the entire alarm has been disabled.
"It's rather frustrating for us that the percentage is so low," he said.
Who might benefit from a safety visit?
Everyone can benefit, however there are people within our communities that are statistically at higher risk of incidents occurring, including:
- Over 65s
- Those who live alone
- People with limited mobility, hearing impairments or vision impairments
- Residents who are supported by carers, family and friends
- Anyone with English as a second language
How to book?
If you're reading this story on your mobile phone click here to book, otherwise scan the QR code below to request a free smoke alarm.