House fires are avoidable
Winter heating tips from Porirua’s fire safety officer
Fires that start in the kitchen account for more than 32 per cent of all structure fires in the Porirua area, says fire safety officer Russell Postlewaight.
In all cases the fires were avoidable, and in one instance the operation of the smoke alarm saved the occupants’ lives.
There are two main rules to remember, Mr Postlewaight says: Do not try to cook if you have been drinking and stay near the stove and watch children at all times when the stove and oven is being used. Keep the stove clean and if you are uncertain about its condition have it checked by a registered electrician.
Now is a good time to check the condition of the battery in your smoke alarm.
If you don’t have one, install one in the hallway near the sleeping area of your home. Preferably install one in every bedroom. Do not install a smoke alarm in your kitchen or close to the bathroom door as cooking fumes or shower steam may cause them to activate accidentally. If your smoke alarm ‘‘chirps’’, that’s an indication that the battery is going flat. Replace it immediately. Do not just take it out and forget about it. Every two or three months clean your smoke detector by vacuuming it gently with the soft brush fitting of your vacuum cleaner. This will stop your smoke alarm losing its sensitivity Heaters While heaters of all types keep us warm during winter they do present a fire threat if not used as designed. Check all cords and fittings for signs of wear and dam- age. If in doubt take it to a qualified tradesman. Clean all reflectors. A dull reflector can lower your heater’s performance; simply cleaning it can improve its efficiency. Clean all fittings on your gas heater, check hoses for signs of deterioration and have your cylinder checked regularly. Remember the ‘‘ Heater- Metre’’ rule. Keep any flammable items such as clothes, curtains or chairs at least a metre from your heater. Open fires/wood burners Have all chimneys and flues swept annually and inspected for signs of cracking or failure that could possibly contribute to the spread of a fire in the roof space of your home. Make sure that there is at least a 100mm gap between metal flues and any timberwork. Remove and clean thoroughly all grates and firebox interiors to minimise any solid ash buildup. Check chimney and flue cowls for any foreign items such as birds’ nests that will prevent a good draught or become a flammable obstruction. Remember to dispose of all ashes in a metal container outside as they can retain their heat for quite some time. Downlights If you are planning to install downlights at home, make sure that you move the insulation in the ceiling area away from the light fitting. Heat is generated by the light and into the insulation with the consequence of fire if it is not moved. Have a qualified electrician do the installation. More information is found at the Energy Safety Authority website. Candles If you have to use candles, use them safely. Stand them in a wide flat-bottom container to prevent tipping over. Remember, a candle is a small fire. Keep it at least a metre away from anything flammable, and finally, keep candles and matches away from children. Fire is a tool, not a toy.
For any further information contact your local fire station or in the Porirua-Kapi Mana area call Fire Safety Officer Russell Postlewaight on 04 237 6939.
Downlight downer: Make sure ceiling insulation is kept well clear of downlights.