Fire Warning

Reporter: Andrea Burns

If there was a fire in your house, could you save yourself?Would you have known just one cup of water thrown on a saucepan of burning oil could do this? The flames are enormous; the heat extreme, the smoke is toxic. Phil Cribb says “if someone's in the path of that it has the potential to do life threatening injuries”

Did you know leaving your TV on standby can lead to this? Heat builds up... the glass cracks... fire and acrid black smoke is let loose on your home.Fire fighters won't go near this without breathing apparatus. If it happened while you slept, it'd be catastrophic.These are just drills... exercises done by fire fighters to show the speed and fury of a blaze - and how the appliances meant to make our lives better, can be deadly.

This, however, was no exercise, it was tragically real. Brisbane Broncos colt Tee Levu and his girlfriend Melissa Butterworth died as a result of a house fire it's believed started after a compact disc battery overcharged and exploded. With security bars on their windows, the couple were trapped inside their home

Older batteries in CDs are most likely to overheat after they're fully charged. Danny Carson from Queensland Fire and rescue...”it's quite unusual, we've had two batteries in the past 2-3 weeks that have actually done the same thing”

Michael Griffiths says “to come round the corner that night and see it all gone is pretty gutting” Their home is ruined but Michael and Jo Griffiths know they're lucky their family is safe. Investigators believe this fire was caused by an air conditioner, left on in the height of summer. Flames melted it (use shot of melted unit), the blaze spread through the roof space, causing 350-thousand dollars damage. Their kids now call this the broken house...the memory still gives the children nightmares. The family will never live here.

Jo Griffiths says “its the little things to them too, like Sarah lost her teddy that she was given when she was born and that's all she wanted out of the house 22.35 and luckily we found him, but he was a bit charred but the ladies over the road cleaned him up and put bandages on him, but it's the little things like that you don't realise how it affects them”

So do you really know what to do if your house catches fire?


First, the oil fire, Phil Cribb says “what happens is the oil reaches its ignition temperature and it ignites”

If this happens you'd rush to grab a bucket of water and put it out, right? Well, this is what happens if you throw water onto an oil fire, “the water boils, and it then carries burning particles of aero soled oil up to the roof”

A very deadly scenario. Here's what you SHOULD do: turn the heat off, put a lid on the saucepan. Use a fire blanket to extinguish the flames. The smoke is toxic, get out and call triple o.


If you'd been sleeping here when the electric blanket ignited, you'd probably be dead. An ordinary bedroom... first smoke... two minutes later, flames. Another minute and a half if you weren't already burnt, you'd be at serious risk - another three minutes in, the fluffy toy is well alight. Carbon dioxide affects your brain and the trigger to breathe. And in a room this size, it'd only take seconds. Meanwhile, the heat melts one of our cameras - here's another angle that's paint peeling off the wall... the beds engulfed, fire fighters put out the flames. This is the damage done in just ELEVEN minutes

Here's the same scenario but with smoke detectors and sprinklers in the ceiling. First, there's smoke from the electric blanket then the flames just under three minutes later. Ten seconds on, the smoke detectors sound. Another two minutes pass, the pillows are alight, sprinklers in the ceiling trigger. Here, ten minutes after the first flames - the comparison with the other room is extraordinary. Phil Cribb says “lifesaving? Certainly”

Fire fighters say to prevent an electric blanket fire

* use only Australian standard blankets

* have older blankets tested by a qualified electrician

* don't sleep with them on - turn them off at the control point and the power point before going to bed.

In the event of an electric blanket fire or any fire in an enclosed space - don't sit up or stand up into the smoke. Cover your face, drop to the ground and roll. If clothes are alight, rolling on the ground smothers the flames



* Cover face

* Stop

* Drop

* Roll


This smoke is the result of a blanket left on a couch, too close to a heater. These are the flames with in 90 seconds another ninety seconds, the smoke's choking 6 minutes later, the lounge room's engulfed, paint's flying off the walls the heat melts our camera on the ceiling. Nine minutes, this room's history.

Phil Cribb says “we say keep combustibles a metre from the heater and that will give you good protection from an ignition”That one metre buffer is imperative. For open fires, clean flues and chimneys annually. Check them regularly for cracks, sparks can enter the roof space and cause a fire. Keep deadlock keys handy for a quick escape. Install smoke alarms and plan and practice a home fire escape plan.

Fires kills - authorities say don't let your family be victims this winter. Phil Cribb says “its simple steps but it can reduce the consequences of a fire”

Tips on Winter Safety

  • Install smoke alarms and ensure they have fresh batteries.
  • Leave a one metre safety zone around heaters and fires.
  • Leave keys in deadlocks to ensure an easy escape
  • Have an emergency escape plan and practice it.
  • Use only heating appliances that meet approved standards.
  • Keep a fire blanket and extinguisher and learn how to use them.
  • Turn electric blankets off at the control point before going to bed.
  • Check electric blankets for wear and tear before using them.
  • Ensure heaters are installed and maintained to the manufacturer's specifications.
  • Always use a fire screen in front of open fireplaces to prevent sparks and logs rolling out.
  • Never leave children unsupervised near heaters or open fireplaces.
  • Extinguish all flames and embers completely before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Clean your flu or chimney at least once a year to prevent a build up of flammable material and ensure your heater works efficiently.
  • Regularly check the flu and chimney for cracks or damage as sparks and embers may enter the roof space and start a fire.
  • Do not use combustible liquids to light open fires or combustion stoves (use firelighters instead).
  • When disposing of ash, ensure it is completely cool and no embers remain.
  • All household electrical appliances should be used, installed and maintained according to the manufacturers' specifications.
  • Regularly check the brick of fireplaces and chimneys for cracks or damage as fire can travel through soot deposits in damaged mortar joints
  • Ensure twin or triple skin flues are used to wood heaters when flu's penetrate floor, ceilings and roof spaces.