Matt Golinski
Matt Golinski Barry John Alsop Eyes Wide Open

Matt Golinski tragedy highlights need for better alarms

MATT Golinski lay on the grass for half an hour, waiting for an ambulance. His skin draped around his body. As his house burned and neighbours threw water on him, he simply repeated: "I have lost my whole family."

It was before dawn on Boxing Day 2011. Mr Golinski's wife, Rachael, and three daughters Sage, Willow and Starlia had died. Even the family dog perished.

A Senate inquiry into smoke alarms has heard that a few simple changes to outdated laws might have prevented the tragedy. In disturbing evidence, fire authorities said current smoke alarm practice is inadequate, indicating the public has been lulled into a false sense of security.

Fire and Rescue NSW said modern, quick-burning furnishings mean fires can progress to a fatal "flashover" in as little as two minutes, compared with the 1970s, when it took up to 20 minutes. The CSIRO says open-plan homes can exacerbate the effect.

His father, Keith, told the inquiry that photoelectric smoke alarms, which are more sensitive to large particles produced in a smouldering fire, should be mandatory in all homes, replacing ionisation alarms, which detect small particles from fires that have progressed to flames.

"[Matt's] life has been shattered … If only I could rewrite the script," he said.

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