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Saved by sound of a smoke detector

PETALING JAYA: It has been more than 10 years since the beeping of a smoke detector woke Sarah Syahirah Abdul Hamid from bed, saving her life and her three siblings as a fire raged downstairs.

“It happened a long time ago. I was jolted awake by the beeping. I opened my room door and found the second floor ceiling full of smoke!” Sarah Syahirah said when interviewed.

She quickly alerted her two elder brothers of the fire.

“We couldn’t see the flames but there was smoke everywhere,” she recalled.

Sarah Syahirah, her brothers and little sister made their way down to the ground floor, grabbed the house keys and fled their home in Section 25, Shah Alam.

“Both my brothers went back in and put out the fire with the fire extinguisher that was in the house,” she said, adding that they ended up not needing to call the Fire and Rescue Depart­ment.

While she couldn’t quite remember exactly when the house fire took place, she said it happened when she was still in secondary school – about 13 years ago.

Now 27 and working as a sales support, Sarah Syahirah explained that the fire started when her mother, after preparing breakfast for her children, left for work but forgot to turn off the stove.

Her father had also gone off to work by then, leaving Sarah Syahirah and her siblings at home alone. “It was the school holidays then.”

The whole kitchen, Sarah Syahirah said, was on fire. “Luckily, my late dad taught us what to do when there is fire,” she said.

One of these lessons, she said, was to find the closest exit immediately.

“Stay close to the ground to avoid inhaling too much smoke. Use a wet cloth or napkin to the face to reduce smoke inhalation.”

If trapped in a room, she said, stuff all openings around the door with wet clothes, and wet the door and walls, if possible.

“He even taught us how to use the fire extinguisher. Aim for the base of the flame, not the fire itself,” she said.

On Monday, Lim Ah Kok, 58, his wife Goh Bee Khim, and their two sons, Yong Liang, 20, and Yong Wei, 17, were not as lucky as Sarah Syahirah and her siblings.

The Lims died from smoke inhalation when their house in USJ 2/3, Subang Jaya, caught fire.