Fire terror a warning to us all

By Ross Pringle

Reading the account by Jo Conroy of her family's brush with potential fire tragedy sent a shiver down my spine.

It was one of those occasions where you think "there but for the grace of God ..." The terrifying moment when Jo couldn't see or hear her children in that smoke-filled room is something most of us couldn't bear to imagine.

Having lost a significant amount of possessions, it is likely that is of little consequence given the family is safe.

What so easily could have ended in tragedy, in this instance turned out relatively okay.

But things could have been so different. What if Bella the dog's barks had been ignored?

What if Jo's desperate cries to her children hadn't been heard, or they had been frozen in panic under the bed where they had sought refuge?

It hardly bears thinking about but we must if we are to take anything from this.

The suggestion is that the fire started after the children were playing with matches, and many will want to point an accusatory finger at the parents.

Of course matches and other dangerous goods should be kept out of reach of children but ask any parent and they'll tell you it's not that simple.

Kids have this uncanny knack of gaining access to hard-to-reach areas and can show an amazing turn of speed.

Without too much effort I can recall any number of occasions from my own youth where good sense was nowhere in evidence and either me, my siblings or friends managed to put ourselves and possibly others in potentially harmful situations.

It may have been with vehicles, fire, electricity, chemicals, even firearms.

And it's not as if I wasn't raised to know right from wrong or about danger but sometimes you do stupid things, things you look back on and wonder how you didn't come to any harm but also what possessed you to try it.

I for one don't blame Jo Conroy for what happened but can appreciate how it must have been for her.

I expect perspectives on life and family will have been altered by this near-tragedy.

But hopefully by giving her story such prominence, many others will learn from her experience and take the necessary extra precautions.

The great wage debate

All this talk about a living wage is great.

Regardless of how unlikely of being brought in, it has at least got people talking about issues of pay, profitability and performance, as well as social and economic policies.

Some argue about the need for a wage system that covers the cost of living, others talk of the potential for job losses or potential inflationary pressures as employers look to pass on or minimise labour costs.

There are simply too many variables to apply a blanket living wage across all the country and the various situations found here.

Simply considering the thresholds for family assistance is eye-opening.

A family with three children under 12 where the combined income is $100,000 qualifies for assistance in the form of an in-work tax credit.

That is based on salary or wages of $60,000 for one and $40,000 the other.

Using the living wage as a guide, a family with three children with only one parent working and receiving $38,272 in salary or wages would get $260 a week in aid, or $13,520 annually.

But at least there is a discussion happening and it's one this country needs to have if we are to progress our dream of a decent lifestyle and opportunities for all.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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