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A fire in a flat on Castle Street has highlighted the importance of smoke alarms in student accommodation.
The fire broke out on Saturday, May 14, at 660 Castle St, namesake of the band Six60. While there were no fatalities, the fire led Otago University student Robby McPhail to break his ankle as he jumped from a first floor window to escape.
According to the Otago Daily Times, East Otago area fire commander Laurence Voight said new smoke alarms installed by the landlord were found in cupboards in the flat.
“Smoke alarms can’t do their job if they’re not on the wall to do it,” said Mr Voight. “Taking them down is an act of stupidity.”
“Working smoke alarms would have given them more warning and more time to escape.”
New government regulations come into force this year from July 1 requiring smoke alarms within three metres of each bedroom door for all residential rental properties.
The landlord will be responsible for making sure smoke alarms are in working order at the beginning of every new tenancy, with tenants responsible for replacing batteries.
VUWSA President Jonathan Gee noted this would, “go some way to ensure smoke alarms are installed and maintained in rental housing.”
He stated that VUWSA was working on making more resources available for first-year students moving into flats and added, “we encourage any student facing issues with their landlord to contact the VUWSA Advocacy Service at firstname.lastname@example.org.”