Preventing unnecessary deaths at home!

A terrible tragedy occurred early this morning here in Melbourne, when a man died in a home fire that the fire brigade believe was caused by a discarded cigarette.

Cigarette likely cause of fatal house fire

Fire investigators believe a fatal house fire at Heidelberg Heights, in Melbourne's east, was caused by a discarded cigarette.

A 56-year-old man died in the front room of the Wordsworth Avenue home about 2:00am.

Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board spokesman Bob Undy says smoke alarms in the house were working when the fire started.

"The smoke alarms had melted off the roof but being the early hours of the morning, it was unfortunate no-one else heard the alarm," he said.

Mr Undy says the fire was contained to a front room.

"The front lounge room was totally involved in fire," he said.

"Firefighters using breathing apparatus broke their way in and discovered, unfortunately, the remains of an elderly gentleman." more..

When I heard about this story on local radio, I immediately thought of a couple of developments that WILL save the unnecessary loss of life and property in the future.

Performance of smoke alarm signals

First - I was recently fortunate enough to hear a speech from Associate Professor Dorothy Bruck, an Australian researcher from Victoria University, Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering who is considered a world authority on the performance of smoke alarm alerting systems.

Professor Bruck has been conducting research in to the effectiveness of the current alarm signal produced by smoke alarms for various age groups and socio-economic demographics.

Professional Bruck's research illustrates that common alarm signal may be ineffective in waking some groups of people while they are asleep.

This research will help manufacturers design more effictive warning signals used in smoke alarms.

Fire-Safe Cigarettes

The second development getting momentum in the United States is the push to get tobacco companies to produce Fire-Safe Cigarettes.

The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes comprises fire service members, consumer and disability rights advocates, medical and public health practitioners, and others who are committted to saving lives and preventing injuries by reducing the threat of cigarette-ignited fires. The Coalition is coordinated by NFPA. more...

While writing this post, I found a related article from September 2004 in the Sydney Morning Herald

Each year 10.7 billion of British American Tobacco's cigarette butts are discarded. Fire authority data show that annually, a conservative estimate of 4574 fires are caused by smoking around Australia.

Some of these are house fires. Smoking is the leading cause of residential fire deaths in at least eight countries, including Australia, where some 14 people die each year. Drunks dozing off with lighted cigarettes too often cause fires in bedding and furniture which spread, often killing infants who are overrepresented in the statistics on deaths from cigarette-caused fires.

Perhaps the Australian Fire Protection Association could take up these issues and work with state and federal legislators to make tobacco manufacturers produce Fire-Safe Cigarettes.

If you feel strongly about this, please add your comments below, and we'll pass them on to the FPA for further action.

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