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.