'We had only just replaced the batteries': Smoke detector saves family of eight

Jerilee Weston with four of her children - baby Mila, toddler Harry, Allie, 9, and Adele, 4 - outside their former property. Image Sophie Elliott.
Jerilee Weston with four of her children - baby Mila, toddler Harry, Allie, 9, and Adele, 4 - outside their former property. Image Sophie Elliott.

A Busselton mother-of-six who lost everything in a house fire has thanked the community for its support and reinforced the importance of working smoked detectors.

On November 19 at 6am, Jerilee Weston turned on the heater in the lounge room of her property on Fairway Drive to warm the room for her children getting ready for school.

She returned to her room to lay down with her three month old daughter, Mila, when the children’s father Harry said he smelled smoke.

Within seconds, the home’s smoke alarms went off and the family evacuated.

”I freaked out and was grabbing the kids, we rushed passed the lounge down the hall to outside and the flames were up to the roof by then,” Ms Weston said.

The fire was attended by six crews from Bunbury, Busselton and Dunsborough.

The fire managed to be contained to one room and ceiling space, however, the entire house is smoke and water damaged.

The estimated damaged bill is $150,000.

The family has received donations from the community, the children’s schools and the city’s major retailers. 

Only days prior, Ms Weston had purchased a brand new fridge and the family does not have contents insurance.

She is hopeful some baby pictures will be salvaged from their home of five years.

Ms Weston said she was devastated by the loss, but felt lucky to have got out with her family.

“I was so scared, once we got out I just kept counting the kids,” she said.

“We ran out with the clothes on our backs. We didn’t want to go in to save anything.

“We are thankful, we had only just replaced the batteries of the smoke detector a few days before.”

Just three days earlier, the region’s fire crews were called to a property on Marine Terrace due to a kitchen fire after something was left cooking on the stove while the occupants went out for a walk.

Over the weekend, a Margaret River home was left with considerable damage when a candle fell over and started a fire.

Department of Fire and Emergency Services Geographe area officer Area officer Andy Thompson said just as people made their properties bushfire ready, they also needed to be aware of the dangers inside their own home.

“We want people to be more vigilant and have awareness about things like heating devices, candles and stoves,” he said.

“It only takes seconds for something to go wrong and the consequences can be catastrophic,” he said.

“In these cases, the smoke detector alerted the occupants, so we really want people to ensure they’ve checked the batteries of their devices or preferably have a hard-wired detector.

”Luckily in these situations, the volunteers we have attended fires very quickly and prevented further damage.”