Airbnb vis­i­tors put ashes in plas­tic bag


A house fire in Jacks Point, near Queen­stown, is be­lieved to be the 12th caused by hot ashes in the Cen­tral Otago re­gion in the last year but the first started by out-oftown guests.

Fire risk man­age­ment of­fi­cer for Cen­tral and North Otago Stu­art Ide said the fire ser­vice had been work­ing hard to ed­u­cate peo­ple on the dan­gers of incorrect dis­posal of hot ashes.

How­ever, Satur­day’s fire was caused by over­seas guests rent­ing a home via Airbnb.

‘‘This is a whole new ball game,’’ he said.

The fire ser­vice was now look­ing at pro­duc­ing pic­to­rial pam­phlets to ed­u­cate vis­i­tors on cor­rect dis­posal of ashes - in a metal ash bucket with a lid, kept away from the house.

On Satur­day the vis­i­tors put ashes in a plas­tic bag, doused it with wa­ter and left it near the house when they left.

That was not rec­om­mended, Ide said.

‘‘Once it burns through the side it gives the oxy­gen a bit of wind and blows the ash around. It will find some­thing com­bustible.’’

In this case it blew on to the side of the house and into elec­tri­cal ca­bles, trans­port­ing it to the roof where it caused ex­ten­sive dam­age in the ceiling.

It was not clear whether there were work­ing smoke alarms in the house but the dan­ger with ex­ter­nal fires was that they could be fully in­volved in the roof space at night time and no one would be aware.

‘‘When you’re look­ing at 12 in a year - ob­vi­ously we’ve got to get the mes­sage out there. We are get­ting the mes­sage to ren­ters but this is a new ball game.’’

Short term vis­i­tors were a con­cern as they of­ten came from coun­tries where they were not ac­cus­tomed to us­ing fires and did not know how to dis­pose of ashes.

There was also the issue that many did not speak English.

‘‘We’re con­cerned that one of these days we’ll get un­lucky and some­body will die. We don’t want that to hap­pen. We want to make sure we don’t have the fire and if we do, we want to make sure peo­ple get out.’’

Ide spoke with the New Zealand-based own­ers of the house who were on hol­i­day in Sin­ga­pore.

‘‘They were ob­vi­ously quite con­cerned but that’s the ad­van­tage of hav­ing in­sur­ance and no one died.’’

Fire fighters dam­pen down hot spots after a fire started by hot ashes left in a plas­tic bag de­stroyed much of a Jacks Point house.

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