Guess what’s likely causing domestic appliance fires? You.

A controlled burn done by Fire & Emergency NZ for television illustrates just how quickly a home can take light.

A controlled burn done by Fire & Emergency NZ for television illustrates just how quickly a home can take light. - FIRE AND EMERGENCY NZ


You've heard the urban myths about domestic appliances bursting into flames and consuming their owner's houses – but a quick look at the facts shows that the real culprit is likely to be the humans who use them.

Statistics from Fire & Emergency NZ show that in the last five years, 294 fires were caused by "failures to clean" (for example, forgetting to clean the lint out for your dryer), 284 fires were caused by people putting "combustible" things too close to the heater, and 258 were from the careless disposal of cigarettes, embers or ash. Unattended cooking still reigned supreme however, coming in at 893 occurrences.

We're tired when we get home from work, we're desperate to get warm, we get bored or distracted - we're only human. It's easy for the sensible precautions to go in the "too hard" basket.

If the principal advisor of fire risk management for the Auckland region, Mike Shaw, could drive any message home about fire safety and appliances, it would be simply to always read the instructions.

Here's a common sense rundown for home appliances that Fire & Emergency NZ would like us to keep in mind.

DRYERS

It's been said before and we'll say it again - don't leave your dryer running when you go out.

It's been said before and we'll say it again - don't leave your dryer running when you go out. - JANE USSHER/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN


It's simple - remove the lint from the dryer after every use, make sure the dryer is well ventilated and don't turn it on and then go out.

Static electricity and build up of heat can cause dust, lint and chemical residue on clothing to catch fire.

If you're a regular user of hair or massage oil, your towels can pose a particular fire risk.
"Over time the oils become impregnated into the fabric," said Shaw. It doesn't take much for these to catch light, especially if your dryer doesn't have an automatic-off switch.

DISHWASHERS

Stacking your dishwasher correctly really is an art - and an important safety measure.

Stacking your dishwasher correctly really is an art - and an important safety measure.

A dishwasher bursting into flames seems like an oxymoron, but what this is most often caused by is poor stacking.

"If you load a small plastic lid into a large slot and it falls through the cage onto a heater element during the drying cycle, it will catch fire," said Shaw.

MICROWAVES

When you are planning a kitchen, leave space around your microwave.

When you are planning a kitchen, leave space around your microwave. - RESENE


The biggest problem with microwave fires, other than improper things being put inside (we all know cutlery is a no-no) is smothering the extractor fans.

"You need an area around the device," said Shaw.

So if you're building a new kitchen and intend on including a microwave, make sure to factor in enough space around it. In an existing kitchen, though tempting, don't try to make it look cute by stacking with cookbooks or knick-knacks, it could be your undoing.

TOASTERS

Toasters put out a lot of heat so if you store it in an enclosed area, pull it out into the open before use.

Toasters put out a lot of heat so if you store it in an enclosed area, pull it out into the open before use. - JACKIE MEIRING/NZ HOUSE & GARDEN


Obviously due to the nature of a toaster, there's going to be a lot of hot air coming out the top. Don't run your toaster inside a cupboard or underneath a shelf or bench.

Amelia Macandrew, Customer Relations Manager, AA Insurance, recommends playing it safe and keep your toaster turned off at the wall when you're not using it.

"Turn off all non-essential electrical appliances at the wall before you go to bed or work," she said.

DVD PLAYERS, SKY-BOXES AND GAME CONSOLES

Televisions and DVD players need room to ventilate so don't stack things on them.

Televisions and DVD players need room to ventilate so don't stack things on them. - RESENE


Consider this just one more reason why playing Xbox all night is a bad idea. Extended use causes devices like this to heat up.

"Things like DVDplayers and sky-boxes have vents which shouldn't be covered," said Shaw.

Apply the microwave principles above and go to bed for goodness' sake.

HAIR STRAIGHTENERS

Hair dryers are quite a common cause of domestic fires.

Hair dryers are quite a common cause of domestic fires.


A "very common" source of domestic fires is hair straighteners being accidentally left on and put down on a soft surface like carpet, a couch or a bed, said Shaw.

Make a habit of unplugging it from the wall when you're done.

SLOW COOKERS AND OVENS

Slow cookers are handy and make delicious food, just make sure to use it correctly.

Slow cookers are handy and make delicious food, just make sure to use it correctly. - MARION VAN DIJK/STUFF



Shaw is a fan of slow cookers like many of us and said dangers with such a device will relate to how it is used. It's fine to set and forget your slow cooker, but make sure that it is set up on a clear bench and not sitting on its own cord.

However tempting, it is not recommended that ovens are left on while you pop to the shops.

OIL COLUMN HEATERS AND ELECTRIC BLANKETS

Even if you have a thermostat, it's not recommended that you leave your heater on when you're asleep or out.

Even if you have a thermostat, it's not recommended that you leave your heater on when you're asleep or out. - iSTOCK



Whilst perhaps the safest of heaters, Shaw does not recommend leaving your oil column heater on overnight or when you're out, even if it has a thermostat.

When you are using it or any heating device, stick to the "heater-metre rule".

"Keep furniture, clothing, curtains and toys a metre away from heaters and fireplaces," said Macandrew. "[And] always turn off your electric blanket before getting into bed."

PHONE AND COMPUTER CHARGERS

Charging devices need space to breathe.

Charging devices need space to breathe. - 123RF


Phone chargers causing fires is another one that's on us apparently. "It's misuse," said Shaw. "Anything that's charging a battery gets warm."

Leave your phone on a hard surface like a table when charging, and without anything on top of it. Do not put it in your bed or under your pillow.

"Think of a power cord like a hose with water going through," said Shaw. "Don't put, for example, a table leg on a computer power cord, it can cause a heat build up."

MULTI-BOARDS

Similarly, Shaw recommended being wary of plugging too many things into multi boards, or buying cheap versions that don't have a surge switch. Macandrew agreed.

"During winter when a greater number of heating appliances are used, we recommend Kiwis take care not to overload or smother multi-boards and sockets to avoid overheating," said Macandrew.

"Don't overload multi-boards and always untangle appliance cords to make sure there's no fraying."

 - Homed

Posted in NEWS |

Investigation underway after fire destroys part of Porirua shopping block

An investigation has been  launched into the cause of a late-night blaze that burnt-down a derelict part of a Porirua shopping centre.

A fire investigator and a police photographer were going through the charred remains of the derelict commercial property tucked among shops along Mentor Lane at Cannons Creek on Monday.

It took about 40 firefighters from 11 fire appliances to quell the blaze, which grew higher than a lamppost at one point, at about 11pm the previous night.


More than 40 firefighters tackled a blaze in Porirua overnight.

More than 40 firefighters tackled a blaze in Porirua overnight. - STEVEN BIDDLE


Paul Wahid, who runs a nearby SuperValu store, said he understood the building used to be a bar but it had been closed for years.
Kids used to climb onto the buildings and get inside, he said. "There's a lot of kids, young kids, out on the roof all the time."


Police and a fire investigator were at the scene on Monday morning.

Police and a fire investigator were at the scene on Monday morning - JARED NICOLL


The fire had caused a power outage, which was still affecting the shops into the next day.
"It's costing all of us big time. All the freezers [are off]."

His colleague, Jackson Singh, said he was working in the store that night when the blaze started at the front of the building nearby and smoke filled the sky "big time".


A large fire burned out a derelict building at the Cannons Creek Shopping Centre in Porirua on the night of March 25.

A large fire burned out a derelict building at the Cannons Creek Shopping Centre in Porirua on the night of March 25 - JARED NICOLL


The flames were "higher than the [street] lights".

"One of the other boys, he ran in back in there, and he couldn't speak; he was just making these funny faces, and I said, 'calm down, calm down'."

Fire and Emergency New Zealand assistant area commander for Wellington David Campbell said his officers' top priority was to stop the blaze spreading to other shops.


The front of the burnt out former business.

The front of the burnt out former business. - JARED NICOLL 

"It was burning very well by the time crews got there and had spread to an adjoining building."

Firefighters were faced with an indoor battle, full of machinery and debris.

"The structure was collapsing so I couldn't send anyone inside ... it was all [done] from the outside; surround and drown."

He understood the owner of the derelict building previously tried to start it up as a bar..

A fire investigator was up there on Monday, "having a rummage through the remains to locate a cause".

"It's probably been started by someone. It's probably a crime scene."

 - Stuff

Posted in NEWS |

Fire damages Porirua commercial block

The blaze caused "extensive damage" to the block on Mentor Lane, which sits behind the main Cannons Creek shops late on Sunday evening.


More than 40 firefighters tackled a blaze in Porirua overnight.

More than 40 firefighters tackled a blaze in Porirua overnight. - STEVEN BEDDIE

Fire damages Porirua commercial block Fire damages Porirua commercial block
Fire and Emergency New Zealand was alerted to the fire shortly after 11pm Sunday.

More than 40 firefighters were greeted by a building which was well-involved in fire, according to shift manager Jan Wills.

One fire truck was still being used to dampen down hot spots on Monday morning.

Wills would not be drawn on whether the blaze was suspicious, but confirmed a fire investigator would be at the scene on Monday.

 - Stuff

Posted in NEWS |

Unattended cooking possible cause of housing unit fire in Porirua

No-one was injured in a kitchen fire at a home along Mungavin Ave in Porirua.

No-one was injured in a kitchen fire at a home along Mungavin Ave in Porirua. - SIMON MAUDE/STUFF


Unattended cooking could be responsible for a fire that "burnt out" a second-storey housing unit in Porirua.

Fire and Emergency Services NZ were called to what started as a kitchen fire in a two-storey block of four, understood to belong to Housing NZ, along Mungavin Ave in Cannons Creek about 8am on Friday.

Senior station officer Trevor Sheehan, of Porirua, said the "straight-forward" job meant his team had things under control within an hour.

Working smoke alarms alerted the occupants to get outside, meaning no-one was injured.

Although the cause of the fire was still undetermined, initial thoughts were that it started in the kitchen, possibly because of unattended cooking.

Part of the street was blocked off while four fire trucks and a command unit brought the blaze under control, which took about 45 minutes plus another 2.5 hours to dampen.

The neighbouring units suffered smoke and heat damage.

STUFF -  JARED NICOLL
Posted in NEWS |