Caravan Fire in Upper Brookfield Sparks Calls for Mandatory Smoke Alarms in Moveable Dwellings

In the wake of a devastating caravan fire that claimed the lives of two young individuals in Upper Brookfield, Queensland is now facing demands to make smoke alarms mandatory in caravans and mobile homes.

The absence of smoke alarm legislation covering caravans in the state has come under scrutiny following a tragic incident that claimed the lives of Jane Strong, 26, from Rosedale, and her friend Eli Johnson, 22, from Lowmead, early one Saturday in May, in Upper Brookfield. Carl Weiss, Jane Strong’s partner, was also taken to the hospital after sustaining burns.  

Police said the caravan was under a semi-permanent structure with a tin roof, which was connected to several sheds and additional shipping containers.  

Unlike most other states in Australia, Queensland does not currently mandate the installation of smoke alarms in movable dwellings. Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) officials are now actively considering potential amendments to address this safety gap.

Recognising the complexity of this issue, a QFES spokesperson explained that further consultations with stakeholders are necessary to ensure the effectiveness and feasibility of any proposed changes. Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan emphasised the government’s commitment to community safety, urging QFES to expedite their considerations.

Photoelectric smoke alarms, alternatively referred to as optical or photo-optical smoke alarms, are designed to detect visible particles produced during combustion.

QFES said that studies have shown that these particular smoke alarms offer a faster response time and are effective in detecting a broader spectrum of fires commonly encountered in residential settings. This includes slow-burning or smouldering fires, as well as fires that produce dense smoke from materials like foam-filled furnishings or overheated-coated wiring.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services recommend the installation of at least one working photoelectric smoke alarm inside the sleeping area of the caravan, as well as one in the annex if utilised for sleeping.  

Published 29-May-2023