A devastating blaze which destroyed a hostel in the centre of the south-east Queensland city of Bundaberg is a stark reminder to strata communities to be prepared to reduce the risk of fires in their buildings, said Archers the Strata Professionals.
Archers the Strata Professionals partner Grant Mifsud said that the destruction this week of the Federal Backpackers Hostel and adjoining Spotted Dog Tavern was a close call for more than 60 guests in the hostel, who all came out safely.
According to him, the Bundaberg fire, which occurred 20 years since a deliberately lit blaze in a hostel at nearby Childers claimed 15 lives, was a reminder for bodies corporate and strata residents to have plans in place to prevent fire hazards, particularly in winter.
“Fire safety is a serious issue in strata communities and safety procedures such as having [up-to-date] fire evacuation plans are in place to ensure residents are prepared with well-rehearsed annual evacuation training,” Mr Mifsud highlighted.
“With more residents in high-rise apartments working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there can be a higher risk of fires that can lead to the loss of lives during the increased occupancy, particularly in winter with greater use of heaters.”
The property professional said that, to keep residents safe, a building must display evacuation diagrams to direct people out through the emergency exits, then to the designated emergency assembly area.
If there are units in the building being used for short-term accommodation, an evacuation diagram must also be displayed inside each unit.
Further, bodies corporate also need to ensure all prescribed fire safety installations and equipment in place such as sprinklers, hose reels, extinguishers and emergency exit lights are regularly checked and maintained in accordance with fire safety standards and an [occupier’s statement] recording the status submitted annually to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service.
While many fires are attributed to careless use of heaters, almost half of unit fires start in the kitchen which can be avoided if residents take a few safety precautions, particularly when cooking.
“You should never leave your cooking unattended and always keep watch, particularly when cooking with any volume of oil,” Mr Mifsud said.
“Keep a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket handy in your kitchen as it’s a great safety addition.
“If you are using a portable heater, ensure it is kept away from flammable materials such as curtains, blinds, tablecloths and bedding. If you need to hang wet clothes in front of your heater, make sure they are positioned at least one metre away.”