Truganina father’s smoke alarm appeal

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic, Ramesh Gajurel and FRV Deputy Commissioner Community Safety Josh Fischer. (Fire Rescue Victoria) 407763_01

A father whose family escaped a fire that destroyed their Truganina home in a matter of minutes is calling on Victorians to install smoke alarms in all bedrooms.

Ramesh Gajurel, his wife and child were finishing dinner in their kitchen when their hallway smoke alarm activated. A fire had ignited in a spare bedroom and was quickly spreading through the house.

“We had just finished the dinner and were doing the clean-up and all of a sudden we heard the [smoke] alarm in the lounge area,” recalled Mr Gajurel.

“We went through each and every room and we found the second bedroom was already on fire – then we just tried to find a way out.”

The bedroom door had been shut and there was no smoke alarm inside, so by the time the family was alerted to the fire it was already burning aggressively.

The family safely evacuated, but unfortunately the house was so badly damaged by the incident in November 2023 that it had to be demolished.

That said, Mr Gajurel considers himself lucky, because if someone had been sleeping in the bedroom when the fire broke out, it would likely have been fatal.

“I think it’s really important to have (smoke) alarms in each bedroom, just in case. When you are sleeping in the night …you can act very quickly,” he said.

The family’s lucky escape has prompted Victorian fire services to once again emphasise that smoke alarms are a bedroom essential.

Fire Rescue Victoria Deputy Commissioner Community Safety Joshua Fischer said fires that start in bedrooms were the ones most likely to kill you.

“If fire breaks out in your bedroom and the door is shut, the hallway smoke alarm will not activate until the fire has burned through the door, which will be too late,” he said.

“Smoke will not wake you – in fact, it will put you into a deeper sleep and render you unconscious – so it’s crucial that you have a smoke alarm installed in all sleeping areas.

Think about all the items we now find in bedrooms that could catch alight – from rechargeable battery products to electronic devices and heaters. Without a working smoke alarm, you may not get the chance to safely escape. Quite simply, they could save you and your family’s lives.”

CFA Deputy Chief Officer Alen Slijepcevic said a smoke alarm costs as little as $20, with a range of other types on offer depending on your housing and financial situation.

“Concerningly, FRV and CFA’s most recent survey of Victorians revealed just 17 per cent of Victorians have smoke alarms in their bedrooms. Around 47 per cent of people do not have a smoke alarm in any living room,” he said.

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