The head of the Fire & Rescue NSW has commended both his own firefighters and Domain Principal Group staff who worked together to battle this morning’s nursing home inferno in north-western Sydney, which claimed the lives of three residents.
Firefighters and police were made aware of the blaze on Hambledon Road in Quakers Hill around 5am this morning, when an automatic fire alarm at the aged care facility was activated.
According to the FRNSW Commissioner, Greg Mullins, the first fire crews arrived within six minutes of notification.
Mr Mullins commented that, had it not been for the quick response of fire-fighters and aged care staff, the death toll would most certainly have exceeded three.
“Firefighters found a room well alight and a whole wing of the nursing home full of black smoke,” Commissioner Mullins said.
“Firefighters in breathing apparatus rescued about 100 residents while working to extinguish the fire. They were assisted by police and ambulance paramedics who helped move the rescued residents to safety.
“It was a firefighters’ worst nightmare – a fire involving dozens of frail, elderly people, many of whom could not walk.
“The smoke was so thick and black that firefighters couldn’t see their hands in front of their face. There were also tiles falling on top of them from the burning roof.
“All the emergency services did a fantastic job and I am so proud of our firefighters who put their own lives on the line for others.
“It has been a huge tragedy, with three deaths currently confirmed (as at 11am), but it could have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for the quick actions of all emergency services personnel and nursing home staff, who did an outstanding job in the first vital minutes.”
Police said three residents have been confirmed deceased and a large number of others have been taken to hospital suffering various injuries.
The NSW Health Deptartment advised that 32 patients were taken to surrounding hospitals: 14 are in intensive care units (ICU); five are suffering from severe burns; and 18 are non-ICU.
The State Crime Command’s Homicide Squad have established a special team, Strike Force Westall, to investigate the incident.
Although no further information has been officially distributed to media, News Limited have reported that the fires are being treated as “suspicious”, with fire authorities confirming there were two separate fires.