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This professor turned on his sprinklers from his phone to save his house from a fire

Rachio IRO smart sprinkler installed on wall.

A smart home just saved its own life. Well, it certainly had some help from its owner, but thanks to the house’s connectivity, it was able to narrowly escape death by fire. Last week, Simon Maddocks, the president and vice-chancellor of Charles Darwin University in South Australia, was notified by friends and the County Fire Service of a raging bushfire that threatened his crops and farmhouse. Forced to think fast from his office at the university, far from his residence, Maddocks decided to make use of his smartphone — not to call for help, but to turn on his sprinkler system.

“I’d been alerted by Country Fire Service (CFS) messages and friends that there was a fairly major fire in the district, a long way to the west of my place,” Maddocks told ABC News. “At this time of year you are very conscious on strong windy days with warm temperatures, things can move quickly.”

As the professor continued to monitor the fire activity, it soon became apparent that things were moving very quickly indeed. But luckily, Maddocks is a very tech-savvy property owner. “I have my farm technologically connected,” he said. “I can look at CCTV cams on my phone, I have irrigation systems on remote control.”

And through his CCTV cams, Maddocks watched in horror as his wheat crop was suddenly engulfed in flames. “Everything went dark,” the professor remembered, “Then [there] was a red fireball … everything just turned in a split second.”

In just “a matter of minutes,” Maddocks said, his crops were incinerated, and the fire barreled towards his house. But the homeowner was prepared.

“The fire came up all around the house, but my ability to turn on irrigation systems from my phone in Darwin and the fact that I had neighbors patrolling with fire units” saved his home, Maddocks said.

Although Maddocks admitted feeling “so helpless” from his perch at his office many miles away, in fact, his efforts in producing a tech-connected house clearly prevented further disaster from ensuing. And even if he’d been on the scene, he said, it would’ve been unlikely that he could’ve done anything more to save his property.

So while being able to turn on your washer and dryer from afar may not seem like the most life-changing technology, every once in a while, having a smart home really serves its purpose.

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