Ararat Fire Brigade Country Fire Authority volunteers attend highest rate of burnt toast callouts in Victoria in 2016

Image: SHUTTERSTOCK
Image: SHUTTERSTOCK

ARARAT’S Country Fire Authority volunteers had the highest rate of callouts related to burnt toast in Victoria in 2017.

Country Fire Authority crews across the state respond to alarms set off by a burnt slice of toast at least once a day on average, analysis of incident response data shows.

There were 510 instances of burnt toast setting off fire alarms last year, triggering a costly and time-consuming visit from CFA crews.

CFA data shows there was a total of 42,834 emergency callouts in the 12 months to June 2016, and a burnt piece of toast was responsible for about one in 100 dispatches.

The worst area for toast-related callouts was Ararat.

Whenever fire crews responded to an alarm there, they found that a blackened slice of bread as a calling card 4.4 per cent of the time.

Ararat Fire Brigade captain Greg Taylor said a lot of the ‘burnt toast’ calls were generated by security systems that were linked to smoke detectors and called emergency numbers automatically.

“Generally, in properties with an automatic alarm system connected to the CFA, anything can set that alarm off,” he said 

“If they are a false alarm, generally what they define them as is a ‘burnt toast’ or ‘false alarm’.

“A ‘burnt toast’ alarm is people cooking, that sort of thing.”

Ararat Fire Brigade captain Greg Taylor

Ararat Fire Brigade captain Greg Taylor

Mr Taylor said the alarm system at Hopkins Correctional Centre had generated a lot of callouts while the prison outside Ararat was being expanded.

The prison’s specialty residential compound for sex offenders, Corella Place, a one point had a sensitive alarm system that generated a lot of callouts.

“Our increase was a lot to do with what they were doing out at the prison,” Mr Taylor said.

“We probably had more than 25 per cent more calls

“We average between 160 to 180 calls per year and that went up to around 200 calls for that period when they were working on the prison.”

Mr Taylor said other large buildings in Ararat with automated alarm systems, such as the council office, the hospital and aged care homes and retail shops can generate false alarms through smoke in the kitchen.

“Sometimes it can be a fault detector and sometimes it can be cooking,” Mr Taylor said.

“Because there are a lot of people in these buildings, they have an automatic line to the CFA and if something happens we get called to it.”

Corella Place sex offenders unit at Hopkins Correctional Centre outside Ararat.

Corella Place sex offenders unit at Hopkins Correctional Centre outside Ararat.

Other fire brigades across Victoria have been left with no doubt that toast was responsible for automated callouts.

In one such case from 2015, a resident at a Ballarat nursing home requested their slice of toast be put back into the toaster because they liked it "well done".

The burning bread set off the building's fire alarms, and two fire trucks were dispatched to the scene.

As the Wendouree Fire Brigade later wrote on Facebook: "the result was a great deal of smoke, and inconvenience to staff and residents, along with a large fine for the facility".

Meanwhile, in the Shepparton region there were a dozen (although not a baker's dozen) times when someone turned up their toaster's settings too high.

The Frankston district had the most cases of burnt toast with 122, but as it is experiences the highest number of callouts each year this figure is not unexpected.

A CFA spokesman said most of these incidents would have been preventable and resulted in demand on invaluable firefighting resources.

"While we do everything we can, we look to the community to use common sense and take responsibility for preventing fires and keeping themselves safe," he said.

The leading causes of emergency dispatches were vegetation fires (4510), rescues (4362), hazardous spills (3112), rubbish fires (3074), vehicle fires (2268) and building fires (2148).

In most CFA districts, vegetation fires were by far the most common cause of callouts, but there were were a few exceptions.

Rubbish fires were the most common emergency in the Geelong district, vehicle fires were the primary concern in Mount Dandenong, while in Frankston it was petrol spills.

Some of the more uncommon reasons for CFA callouts included 131 chimney fires, 22 fireworks explosions, eight gas explosions, six suspicious package scares (that turned out to be harmless), two pier fires and one instance of someone being electrocuted.

Total CFA callouts have surged 22 per cent over the past five years, with 7640 more callouts last year than there were in 2011.

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