Mother, baby es­cape

House fire avoid­able

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

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.

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