Smoke alarms are not most people's idea of a Christmas present, but the Fire Service wants us to think about them anyway.
House fires are not something we have had to think about for a while, either. Long ago they occurred quite often. Pick up a daily newspaper from the 1950s to the 1970s and it would be a rare issue that did not contain a report of a call-out to a burning house, often more than one.
But by the 1990s fires had become so uncommon the Fire Service was becoming a general emergency response service, and the insurance industry and the Government of the day were questioning how many full-time fire fighters they needed. The rostered crews spent their days maintaining the equipment and their chance of an uninterrupted sleep on night shift was so high that many could take a second job.
Not now. Suddenly house fires are in the news again. Like the one in Mt Wellington last weekend that nearly killed a child of 18 months. Adults managed to rescue two older children from an upstairs window as flames engulfed the family's home but intense smoke stopped them reaching the toddler still inside. He was unresponsive when fire fighters reached him and managed to revive him.
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Downstairs, a man found unconscious was hauled to safety by neighbours. A week earlier three young people in a Hamilton house were killed in a fire that destroyed their rented home, and a week before that, a 3-year-old was killed in a Hamilton house fire that put his mother in hospital.
There have been 11 fatal fires so far this year and of them, 10 of the houses were found to lack working smoke alarms. Can we be surprised? How often do we check the batteries in fire alarms if we even have them? When it bleeped a battery warning, did we disconnect it in annoyance?
If we own a rental property, does it have a smoke alarm? Peter Wilding, fire investigation and arson reduction officer for the Fire Service, is pressing for them and their regular maintenance to be a legal requirement in houses offered for rent.
Building and Housing Minister Nick Smith is "more favourably disposed" to landlords being obliged to fit smoke alarms but tenants being responsible for the maintenance. That seems reasonable.
Smoke is the real killer. Pathologists find most fire victims died before they were burned. Smoke is also an effective early warning. Smoke detectors are a worthwhile gift. Few homes probably have enough of them, they should be in every bedroom and hallway.
The Herald on Sunday is giving away 100 alarms to its readers today. We hope this helps the Fire Service convince everyone that a small gift can save lives.