Mother, baby escape
House fire avoidable
A fire that gutted a Ranfurly home was caused by hot ashes coming out of an open fire, a fire safety investigator says.
Last month, a young mother and her toddler escaped their burning home through a bedroom window after a fire broke out while the mother was sleeping.
Fire Service southern region fire safety officer Stu Ide said investigations had shown the fire was likely to have started from ashes coming out of an open fire in the lounge area.
The incident served as a reminder to people to be vigilant around heating during the upcoming winter months.
‘‘This is our time of most concern in the Southern area because people are trying to keep warm and don’t get it right. They think it’s quite simple and it’s a matter of keeping fires going to get heat, but there are a lot of issues that they don’t understand, forget or don’t want to know about.’’
Chimney fires were a common problem over winter, often caused by people burning wet (green) wood.
‘‘If you burn wet wood you end up with a sticky tar substance and unburnt particles of soot that are combustible so when you get the right conditions you get a fire.’’
Heat generated from burning wet wood was too high for what chimneys were designed to handle — brick chimneys could crack and emit sparks from the fire and stainless chimneys could radiate heat to nearby combustible elements in the roof, he said.
Fires had also been caused by soot particles coming out of the chimney and rolling into the spouting and setting fire to dry leaves in the spouting, he said.
‘‘You can have a fire above your head and not even know about it.’’
Prevention measures included having fire guards to prevent hot ashes rolling on to the floor; clearing spouting, keeping the chimney clean (clean at least once a year) and burning dry wood, he said.
‘‘If you have chimney fire don’t be frightened to phone fire service. There is no charge – it is a free service to the community.’’
Another huge issue for the fire service during winter was disposal of hot ashes.
‘‘People fail to comprehend ashes take five days to cool and and longer if you have them with other combustible substances such as newspaper and food scraps which takes 10 days to cool.’’
Ashes should go into a metal container with a lid, he said.
People should also be careful around electrical radiant heaters and make sure there was a distance of one metre while the heater was operational, he said.
People should also keep in mind electric blanket safety, he said
Safety tips included: Two hours before bed turn it off and turn off as soon as you are in bed; turn it off at the wall; make bed every morning and stretch the blanket out so there are no folds; don’t put anything on top of the bed when you are heating it; when putting blanket away roll it, don’t fold it; regularly inspect blanket for brown spotting; if control switches are not working, don’t use and send away to be inspected.
‘‘It is a concern. Up until now we have been extremely lucky where there has been a number of years since there has been a fire death in Central Otago.’’
Working smoke alarms were essential, he said.
Charred remains: Fire Service southern region fire safety officer Stu Ide.