The Biddeston House Fire – Occupant Saved by a Smoke Alarm

On 2 April 2014, a fire gutted a farmhouse in Biddeston, west of Toowoomba, Queensland with a ferociousness that defied the efforts of emergency responders. In fact, firefighters who arrived shortly before 9:00 p.m. could only control the blaze and watch it raze the house to the ground. Luckily, the owner and lone occupant escaped unhurt. It later emerged that he had replaced the smoke alarm batteries the previous day. According to local media outlets, this decision proved lifesaving when fire tore through the house while he was sleeping in his lounge room. This underscores the importance of smoke alarms in Queensland properties.

Smoke Alarm Regulations in Existing Properties

As of January 1 2017, the Queensland Government requires residents to replace smoke alarms that are more than ten years old with alarms that comply with Australian Standards AS3786-2014. All smoke alarms should be hardwired or powered by 10-year, non-removable batteries. Each bedroom, storey/level, and hallway connecting bedrooms to other rooms should have at least one smoke alarm installed. For properties without bedrooms, at least one smoke alarm should be installed close to the nearest exit. Property owners/occupants should only install alarms that are less than ten years old and can be interconnected with other sensors. However, such alarms should not contain an ionisation sensor. From 1 January 2027, all properties including townhouses and private residences must have interconnected photoelectric alarms and satisfy the aforementioned requirements.

New and Substantially Renovated Buildings

From 1 January 2017, newly built properties and homes that have received approval from local authorities to undergo major renovations should have hardwired and interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms. According to Australian Standards AS3786-2014, these alarms should be installed in each bedroom, on each storey (where applicable), and along hallways that connect bedrooms to other parts of the same building.

Buildings on Sale, Being Leased, Or Under Lease

Smoke alarms that are more than ten years old should be replaced immediately with photoelectric alarms that satisfy AS3786-2014 requirements. Non-functional alarms should also be replaced with photoelectric alarms. Additionally, the photoelectric alarms should be hardwired or powered by a ten-year non-removable battery, support interconnection with other alarms, and not contain an ionisation sensor. This is important because the Queensland Government requires sellers to declare via Form 24 that they have complied with all relevant smoke alarm regulations. From 1 January 2022, residential properties on sale, being leased or under lease must have complied fully with the requirements defined under the new smoke alarm legislation.

Man fitting a smoke alarm

Key Facts to Know about Photoelectric Alarms

Photoelectric alarms are designed to detect signs of combustion from a wide range of fires. This is in addition to detecting smouldering elements that tend to generate dense smoke. Unlike alarms that rely on an ionisation sensor, photoelectric alarms are not prone to giving off false fire alarms when cooking.


Fire can destroy your home and cause serious injuries or even death. Fortunately, properly installed fire/smoke alarms can alert homeowners/occupants thereby enabling them to evacuate or put out smouldering items with a carbon dioxide fire extinguisher. With this in mind, the Queensland government recommends installation of hardwired/battery-powered (non-removable with ten-year lifetime) photoelectric smoke alarms in bedrooms, hallways, and near exit points. To know more about smoke alarms, contact FCF National today.