A BLARING smoke alarm along with a cool-headed, swift response by nine-year-old Welshpool resident Dylan Ward combined to save his little sister and their family’s home from a night-time fire that destroyed a close-by garage and sheds.
Dylan was awoken by the smoke alarm at about 2.30 am on Wednesday August 11, 2021, and immediately got three-year-old Emily Ward up, dressed and safely outside the Pedersen Street house, and took a telephone to his father Charles Ward to ring 000.
Already alerted to the fire by a series of loud popping noises, Mr Ward was hosing the side of the house closest to the blazing garage, in an attempt to protect it from the flames, when Dylan brought him the telephone.
The call to Triple Zero resulted in Country Fire Authority firefighters and appliances from the Welshpool, Toora, Hedley and Foster brigades turning out to deal with the situation.
Working in unison, the CFA crews contained the fire to the garage and adjacent shedding, and prevented it from igniting the house, though the paint on the eaves of the building was blistered by the heat.
The garage and the three other smaller sheds on the property were badly damaged by the fire.
Welshpool Fire Brigade members wanted to recognise Dylan’s brave and quick-thinking actions as soon as he heard the smoke detector to evacuate his sister and to fetch the telephone in order to contact emergency services.
Welshpool brigade secretary and incident controller Alan O’Neill said that while the CFA crews did “a phenomenal job of drawing up containment lines to ensure the fire did not impact the home” he was “amazed by the fast thinking of the boy”.
Accompanied by Welshpool brigade captain David Grylls, Alan presented Dylan with a replica CFA helmet and a trauma teddy dressed in its own miniature CFA uniform outside the burnt-out garage on Friday morning August 13, 2021.
There was even a CFA teddy for Emily, and a helmet too, however she preferred not to wear it just at that particular moment!
Dylan said when he heard the smoke alarm he thought at first that the heater inside the house hadn’t been shut down properly for the night.
“Then I saw the shed right next door to our house was on fire and I saw Dad was outside trying to stop it from burning the house,” he said.
“I yelled ‘Dad!’ and he heard me, and then I ran to Emily who was fast asleep, and I got her up and dressed, and I grabbed her pram so we could go to Nan’s house in Toora.
“Then I found the telephone and took it to Dad, and he told me to get in the ute with Emily,” Dylan said.
“Then the CFA turned up, and not long after that Mum came home from work.”
The children’s mother, Kerri Lloyd, said she could see the light from the fire as she drove towards Welshpool from Yarram that night, and that she started to worry when she realised that it was very close to if not actually at her own home.
“I later heard that the fire could be seen from as far away as Hedley and Toora,” she said.
“I was very relieved to find my family was safe and the CFA were there.”
Alan said when firefighters arrived, the garage and out-buildings had been destroyed, and that flames were “licking at the eaves of the house.
“After identifying everyone was out and safe, our crews’ first priority was to save the home,” he said.
“We were dealing with strong winds of up to 50 kilometres an hour, so we had to work quick to protect the house.”
The fire was understood to have been started by already-extinguished ashes that flared up as a result of the strong winds overnight, which blew hot embers into the garage area, sparking a fire.
“Thanks to a working smoke alarm in the home, Dylan was able to jump into the action to save himself and his little sister and hand the phone to his dad – he did all the right things,” Alan said.
“Dylan’s brave actions illustrate the importance of working smoke alarms inside your home and having a Home Fire Escape Plan in the event of a fire.”
Alan said the Welshpool, Toora, Hedley and Foster brigades attended with a number of personnel operating a range of several appliances, including the Toora pumper, which was connected to the township’s mains water supply, while the Hedley tanker kept the Welshpool tanker topped up at the fire.
Crew members from Foster and Toora also deployed breathing apparatus to gain access to the rear of the fire.
“Fire crews remained at the scene until about 6 am, and then returned several times throughout the morning to continue wetting down,” he said.
“We were pleased to welcome the good rain that fell later that afternoon!”