Dubbo woman calls for more caution after Fitzroy Street unit fire

A woman whose home is uninhabitable after a fire has urged people to be more wary of fire in the home.

Jasmin Ross arrived home from work about 6.45pm last Monday to the smell of smoke in the Fitzroy Street unit where her then partner was babysitting her five-year-old daughter Ashley.

Within minutes she found a bookshelf alight in an upstairs bedroom – a candle had been knocked over – and evacuated the unit.

Firefighters were on the scene by 7pm.

“We are without a home for anywhere from six weeks to six months,” Miss Ross said.

“I have a lot of clothes and photos and some personal belongings that were damaged … all irreplaceable.

“People take candles for granted … there’s warnings on boxes for a reason and people need to start listening to it. I could have lost my little girl.”

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But luck was on their side. Miss Ross had actually finished work 30 minutes early that day, and firefighters responded quickly as they had been training at the station.

“We’ve always got a permanent crew at the station but we had out retained staff at the station doing a drill, so we were able to get a higher than normal of crews there,” Dubbo Fire Station Commander Chris Cusack said.

“It was beneficial for us as well because it obviously makes our job easier and safer as well.”

“Obviously the what-ifs are starting to roll in … if I hadn’t arrived home when I did, what would have happened?” Miss Ross said.

“But the bottom line is [Ashley] is fine, I got her out and she’s safe. But people – parents, carers, babysitters – need to understand that warnings are there for a reason. Don’t take fire for granted, don’t take candles for granted. Don’t even have them on if there’s a child in the home unless you’re right there and you can see it. Don’t walk away from candles.

Miss Ross offered a heartfelt “thank you” to the firefighters for their speedy arrival and for “salvaging what they could”.

But she also thanked them for teaching her, many years ago, what to do in case of a fire.

“The part that helped me most in that situation was the fire awareness I was taught in primary school: ‘Stop, drop and roll.’ ‘Get down low and go, go, go.’ They work!” Miss Ross said.

“If parents make sure that their kids know these things and they do have their fire plan, their exit plans then everything will be okay.”

Whilst last Monday’s incident was considered a minor fire, station commander Cusack reiterated how quickly flames could take hold.

“That happened in a block of units to that had the potential to affect several people, several families just by spreading from one unit to another,” he said.

“The best thing that people can do is be prepared by practising an escape plan, have working smoke alarms.

“They’re the things that improve the chance of survival if you’re caught in a fire, or any emergency situation.”

“I’m just so grateful that Ashley my daughter came out of this perfectly fine,” Miss Ross said.

“I mean there might be a little bit of emotional, she’s asking ‘where’s this’ or ‘where’s my shoe? Why is that in the bin? Why is that melted?’. But … we’ll get there. Children are resilient.”

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