It’s truly cool to have had a part in saving lives over the last three years through our Fire Safety initiatives. Twice in recent times Laingholm Chief Fire Officer Graeme Booth has told us of homes and possibly lives saved by Fire Extinguishers provided to West Auckland homes.
On the most recent occasion Cornwallis residents Gayle and David Longdon probably saved their house after a built-in vacuum cleaning system malfunctioned. David Longdon, a retired clothing manufacturer, told Our West that Gayle had been using the vacuum on the upper level of the house, when it suddenly stopped. Going downstairs to find out what the problem was she found smoke coming from the vacuum unit which is mounted in the basement garage.
“She had the presence of mind to switch the machine off at the wall,” David says. Mrs Longdon then called her husband in from outside and he smothered the fire with a Fire Extinguisher that had been distributed through The Trusts.
“It was just brilliant that it worked when it was needed,” Mr Longdon says.
He paid tribute to the Laingholm Fire Service that turned up soon after. The fire in the vacuum unit itself had been put out but the fire crew were concerned that it might have already spread into the structure of the house. Fortunately that proved not to be the case and thanks to the fire extinguisher and Gayle Longdon’s presence of mind, the house in Cornwallis “which is the perfect retirement spot” suffered little damage. The Longdon’s fire was the fourth where an extinguisher had saved the day in the Laingholm area.
Two people saved from burning car
The most dramatic saw two people rescued from a burning car. The vehicle had left the road and burst into flames after side-swiping a power pole and crashing into a building. With two people trapped in the vehicle lives might well have been lost, except for the fact that nearby residents were able to use the fire extinguishers to push back the flames until the occupants were dragged free.
On another occasion a Laingholm resident’s range hood caught fire. She too thought to turn the appliance off at the wall before dousing the fire and limiting the damage.
Prior to that, other residents had not been quite so lucky when their kitchen went up in flames. Fortunately between the householders and a neighbour, two extinguishers were available and stopped what might have been a catastrophic fire. As it was only the kitchen was severely damaged.
For the sake of accuracy we need to say that the fire extinguishers were distributed back in the days when The Trusts distributed community-wide gifts that had been bought with money raised in our venues by TTCF and donated by them. Changes since then have seen TTCF become a completely separate entity and The Trusts now make community wide gifts from its profits from the hospitality and liquor retail businesses.
Smoke alarm to the rescue
Our gift last year was to make available two free smoke alarms to every house in West Auckland. We learnt that one came to the rescue within a few weeks of being installed early last year. After many years living without
one, a Te Atatu resident decided to take advantage of our offer and just a couple of months later he was glad he did. He was in the middle of cooking vegetables when he remembered he had to go out. He thought that he’d turned the stove off, but he hadn’t and the vegetables got hotter and hotter until the food started to burn and smoke came pouring from the pan. The smoke alarm screamed its warning; a good neighbour called the fire brigade and the house was saved.
It’s simple. Smoke alarms save lives. The fire service attends between 350 and 500 house fires a year. On average 38 people die in those house fires each year, including children and babies. Thirty of those people (80%) of them lived in a house which either didn’t have a smoke alarm or the smoke alarm wasn’t working. Another West Auckland life saved by a smoke alarm.
“On the evening of Friday 2 September a fire occurred in a home in New Lynn that grew quickly and destroyed the house within minutes. An occupant who was asleep at the time of the fire was woken by a smoke alarm sounding and managed to crawl to safety with flames and smoke above him scorching his hair and clothes. He has informed the Fire Service that the smoke alarm had been recently provided by The Trusts and credits this alarm with saving his life. Having been a former Fire Chief for West Auckland I am aware of the great work The Trusts have done over the years investing back in to the West Auckland community with defibrillators, first aid kits, extinguishers, smoke alarms and other safety promotions over the years. I commend the members of The Trusts on your efforts and wish to acknowledge this has been another life saved because of your work.” Peter Wilding, National Fire Investigation and Arson Reduction, New Zealand Fire Service.