Idea to minimise risk of fatal apartment fires

High reach: A bronto fire truck towers over a lighthouse in Wollongong. Picture: Wayne Venables

High reach: A bronto fire truck towers over a lighthouse in Wollongong. Picture: Wayne Venables

Campbelltown Council should take the lead to ensure residents in apartments aren’t forced flee burning buildings by leaping of balconies, councillor George Brticevic said.

Cr Brticevic said trained council staff should be the only ones entrusted with ensuring buildings were compliant with safety standards.

The NSW government recently announced it would make changes to the Building Professionals Act following a critical review of fire safety certification in NSW apartment buildings.

The report said the current system which allowed developers to appoint and pay a private certifier – rather than council – to ensure buildings were built to standard, was “totally ineffectual”.

The government said it would make consider about 70 changes recommended in the report, however, Cr Brticevic said there was just one simple change would make a big difference.

“When buildings are certified (by private certifiers), it doesn’t always mean they’ve been built to standard,” he said.

“Clearly the industry needs and overhaul.

I have faith in our staff to do a proper job, so I’d prefer the council (staff) be the only certifier for apartment buildings in Campbelltown.”

Cr Brticevic said change would minimise the risk of a situation like the one that killed Bankstown resident Connie Zhang in 2012.

Ms Zhang and another women were forced to leap from a fifth-storey balcony when a fire broke out in their complex.

Last year, during a hearing into Ms Zhang’s death, the NSW Coronoer’s Court was told the strata manager of the complex had failed to to address fire safety concerns, despite repeated requests from NSW Fire and Rescue.

In 2014 Fire Protection Association Australia urged the state government to tighten regulations after it found 40 per cent of NSW buildings did not meet the standards and in some cases, there had been “deliberate” decisions to install “substandard” systems.

Cr Brticevic also said the safety of residents in apartments had been compromised following NSW Fire and Rescue’s decision to remove St Andrews Fire Station’s Bronto – a truck with a 37 metre ladder and rescue basket.

The vehicle – which will be replaced by two trucks equipped with 15 metre ladders and no rescue baskets – was the only one of its kind in Macarthur.

“I saw a glimpse of the 15 metre one – it’s a joke,” he said.

“I can’t believe (the decision to remove the truck) is not a bigger issue.

“The Bronto would be needed for height purposes even if the buildings were up to standard.

“If you are stuck on a balcony what are you meant to do? Just burn?”

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