DIY firefighting doesn't pay: Australian couple's house burns

Noticed small fire in ceiling previous night, thought they had extinguished it

By Ashleigh Perriot
Canberra Times

CANBERRA, Australia — Home owners have been warned against do-it-yourself firefighting after two "extremely lucky" Pearce residents escaped a house fire early yesterday.

Neighbours called 000 just after 7am after a passerby noticed the Charlton Street residence's chimney was alight. Fire crews responded quickly, extinguishing the chimney and parts of the roof that had caught fire.

A small fire in the ceiling had been noticed by the long-term residents the previous evening but they told fire fighters they thought they had extinguished it. The elderly couple now face an estimated $50,000 damage bill.

Despite the damage, ACT Fire Brigade's Operational Commander Brian Talbot described them as "very fortunate".

"They should have called last night at the first sight of fire," Commander Talbot said. "We're 24/7 365 days a year ... when in doubt, call us out."

Commander Talbot said the fire was contained to the chimney and roof, with only superficial damage occurring, but that it could have been much worse.

"It was only 12 months ago just past that the Canberra Services Club witnessed a flue fire and there was some spoiling of the brick chimney and, of course, we know what the extent of the damage was there.

"So I say these residents are extremely lucky."

With winter fast approaching and the cold weather settling in, Commander Talbot warned Canberrans to be vigilant and clear combustible debris away from hazards.

"Ensure that combustible items are away from any fuel source or any ignition sources. And, of course, you know light fixtures, chimneys that type of thing, gas heaters are all a part of that."

Copyright 2012 Canberra Times

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