A rural property in northern Tasmania where two young sisters died in a shed fire was littered with dangerous, unauthorised electrical work.
The cause of the blaze in June 2017 was deemed most likely to be electrical by the coroner, although conclusive evidence couldn’t be found.
Shanzel and Ruby Brewer, aged 11 and 13, were found dead after a converted granny-flat where they were sleeping went up in flames during the night.
In findings published on Wednesday, coroner Simon Cooper said the tragedy may have been avoided if smoke alarms were fitted in their bedrooms.
“The deaths of Ruby and Shanzel were an indescribable, but avoidable tragedy,” he said.
A fire investigation found there had likely been an electrical fault in the shed which ignited the wooden floor.
Mr Cooper found electrical work had been carried out by an improperly-qualified electrician. The shed was supplied with power, in part, by two extension cords which ran from the main house across a driveway.
“It s quite clear that the electrical work at the property was dangerous,” Mr Cooper said.
“No one should ever carry out electrical work of any kind unless they are properly qualified and licensed to do so.”
Mr Cooper said the “most likely source” of the fire was electrical although he was unable to determine if the unauthorised electrical work or the extension cord were the cause.
The two girls had dinner in the house and then went to bed, after Ruby watched a movie with her dad.
A man from a neighbouring property called triple zero shortly after 2.30am to report the fire which he thought was in the bush.
It took firefighters an hour to arrive following confusion about the address and the unavailability of the two closest volunteer brigades.
When they got there, the shed had burned to the ground.
Mr Cooper said the fire service response was “poor”, even taking into account the property’s isolated location.
“However, the evidence does not allow me to conclude that any earlier arrival would have altered the outcome,” he said.