James Griffiths was nine years old when his family home in Ivanhoe, New South Wales, went up in flames.
- Sixty-two per cent of people who die in Victorian house fires have a disability
- The CFA and FRV have launched a program to help at-risk people prepare and respond to house fires
- James Griffiths, who lost his sight as an adult, says the course is "extremely valuable"
There was no visible sign of a fire, but he remembers the smell of smoke getting stronger before the family decided to get out of the house.
"By the time we got out the front, we could see the smoke bellowing out from under the house," Mr Griffiths said.
"We could see flames and hear cracking and it wasn't that long after that the house burnt to a cinder."
Twenty minutes was all it took for the old fibro home, which was raised on stilts, to burn to the ground.
"It was just like a matchbox — once it started it just went up and didn't stop," Mr Griffiths said.
"I'd never been in or seen a house fire before.
Danger 'different in reality'
Eighteen years ago, Mr Griffiths lost his sight due to a medical condition, which drastically changed how he was able to prepare and respond to emergencies.
"When I was younger I was very independent, and then when I became blind I had to ask for a lot more help and a lot more assistance," he said.
"I have to rely on everyone else, [particularly] in an emergency.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) in conjunction with Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) has rolled out an online learning module to do just that.
The Prevent Detect Escape course is for at-risk members of the community, including those living with a disability, to help them better plan for fire emergencies at their homes.
"We often see people overestimate their ability to escape a fire or deal with a fire," FRV deputy commissioner of community safety Michelle Young said.
"When they're actually faced with [a fire], it's quite different in reality."
Course 'extremely valuable'
On average, 18 people die in residential house fires in Victoria every year.
Of those, 62 per cent have a disability.
"Whilst everyone is at risk in a house fire, there are obviously people at a higher risk," CFA acting chief officer Gavin Thompson said.
The course takes about 40 minutes to complete online.
"It's extremely valuable for those who haven't thought about emergency preparedness," Mr Griffiths said.
"For me, it was a great refresher, and for those who haven't yet thought about fires and what they should do in a house fire, this would be a really good eye-opener.
"It's very easy to read, it's good for vision-impaired, it's good for a lot of disabilities — there's movies, there's games, you can stop it and learn at your own pace."
The course is aimed at people 65 and older, those living with disability, mental illness and other at-risk groups, including people who have a drug or alcohol dependency, but it is accessible to all members of the community.
"We do recognise that everyone could do with a bit extra education in this area … so that they can estimate their ability to deal with and escape a fire properly," Ms Young said.