Survivor big advocate of smoke alarms

They lost everything in fire, except each other

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 12/07/2014
 Sheraaz Mohammed
NICOLE JOHNSTONE/ Fairfax NZ

FROM THE ASHES: Sheraaz Mohammed in front of his family’s fire-gutted home. The family escaped the flames after the smoke alarm went off.

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Sahizad Mohammed's Invercargill home is being torn down.

The scorched wooden framework and charred interior walls will soon be gone and a new home will rise from the ashes.

In January, a fire ripped through Mohammed's home and he lost everything except the one thing he holds dearest to his heart - his family.

A miracle he says he owes to his God and also to the smoke alarm in his house.

"I lost my house and my possessions, but I have my family," he said.

Six months after he received a frantic phone call at work from his tearful wife telling him that the family house was burning, he has a message for homeowners.

"Make sure you have working smoke alarms. You can recover from losing property but not from losing a loved one," he said.

It was a smoke alarm that gave Mohammed's wife, son, daughter, son-in-law and two young grandchildren time to escape the flames.

Sahizad's son Sheraaz Mohammed was at home with his mother and sister's young family when smoke started to fill the kitchen.

"I remember, my mother, who was woken up by the alarm, shouting my name. I was sleeping upstairs with the rest of my family. I got my sister and her kids down the stairs and outside," he said.

The family barely made it outside before the house started falling down.

"I could hear it cracking and see it falling," Sheraaz said.

"If the alarm had not woken my mother, we would all be gone."

As a young person living at home, Sheraaz had never given much thought to smoke alarms.

However, when it came time to find his own place to rent, it would be a priority after seeing first-hand the value of the devices, he said.

Sahizad Mohammed said the new home would be a fresh start for the family and, once the walls and roof were up, the first thing to be installed would be smoke alarms. "I am going to have one in every room."

It is a message echoed by the Fire Service - smoke alarms save lives.

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