A Malua Bay couple who were home when a blaze swept through their Iluka Ave house last week say they wouldn’t have survived if it weren’t for a smoke alarm.
Peter, 72, and Kinuyo Wyatt, 63, were having a cup of coffee when they heard the smoke alarm in their hallway go off at about 10am last Tuesday.
They got up to investigate, and saw smoke coming up the staircase.
The only way out was through the front door, halfway down the staircase, and the couple escaped in the nick of time.
“We ran down the stairs and got out,” Mr Wyatt said.
“The smoke alarm absolutely saved our lives. Another two minutes, we would have had trouble getting out.”
Mr Wyatt’s instincts from his time with the bush fire brigade kicked in, and he ran back inside to shut the main door into the living room.
“Instincts took over and I managed to do the right thing and isolate that area,” he said.
Mr Wyatt’s quick thinking stopped the fire from spreading, according to South Coast Fire and Rescue duty commander Inspector Kernin Lambert.
After he made it safely back outside and called 000 from his mobile phone, Mr Wyatt and his wife made their way to the other side of the house, to try to combat the blaze through broken windows with a hose.
“The windows were broken and the flames were already coming out the window,” he said.
However the fire was too hot and was spreading quickly.
Batemans Bay and Moruya Fire and Rescue and Rural Fire Service crews donned breathing equipment before entering the basement to extinguish the fire.
Mr Lambert said basement fires were the hardest to fight.
The inferno was so hot it burnt through a firefighter’s protective equipment, leaving him with minor burns.
“Historically, basement fires are the most difficult for firefighters to fight because they have to go into the fire to put it out,” he said.
Mr Wyatt said the fire started from a lithium polymer battery charger.
A model aircraft enthusiast, Mr Wyatt had taken the precaution of charging a 30cm by 18cm battery in a fire-safe bag but it wasn’t enough.
“They are extremely dangerous things,” he said.
Mr and Mrs Wyatt lost many of their possessions in the downstairs area of the house, and in three bedrooms and bathroom upstairs that were damaged by heat and smoke.
However, a small safe containing their passports, documents and valuables, which they bought on sale 18 months ago, miraculously survived the blaze.
“All the plastic had burnt off,” Mr Wyatt said, “but the buttons on the keypad worked and it beeped open.
“And that was a hot fire.”
His message was to “check your smoke alarms and have a fire plan – what to do if there is a fire in your house”.
“It’s one of the worst things that can happen. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”
Mr and Mrs Wyatt were taken to hospital for possible smoke inhalation but Mr Wyatt said they were checked and released pretty quickly.
Luckily, they have another place in Tuross Head where they’ve been staying temporarily while work gets underway to repair their damaged house.
“I would like to thank the fire brigade, police and ambulance for their excellent work and thank all the kind people for their offers of help,” Mr Wyatt said.
“It takes a personal disaster like this to make you appreciate how good it is to live in Batemans Bay.”