The mysterious case of the exploding fridge has been solved.
Firefighters and police were called to an explosion at a
house in Scott St, Gate Pa in the early hours of October 3.
The force of the explosion smashed all 10 windows in the
two-bedroom flat, ripped the frame off the sliding door in
the lounge and tore off window joinery frames. It also caused
the ceiling to flex and crack in the kitchen and dining room.
The two occupants of the house were asleep at the time and
Tauranga fire safety officer Ken McKeagg said the occupants
initially told him the fridge only contained a bag of
vegetables. He said lengthy questioning by police led the men
to admit they had been mixing butane with alcohol, removing
the evidence before emergency services arrived.
"We were happy to learn it was flammable gas and there was
not something wrong with the veggies, which would be quite
Mr McKeagg said it was unclear if a leaking butane
canister had been left in the fridge or if it had vapourised
off the alcohol during the night.
The butane vapour would have eventually reached its explosive
limit and been ignited when the thermostat kicked in and
started the motor, he said.
Most fridges had a protective layer between the motor and the
storage space but this could get worn down in older
appliances, Mr McKeagg said.
Under normal circumstances that would not be a problem as
most people do not keep volatile substances in their kitchen
fridge, he said.
Mr McKeagg had never heard of people mixing butane and
alcohol and had only seen one similar explosion during his 30
years in the fire service.
"In the first one the lid of a sample bottle in a laboratory
had been left slightly ajar. Volatile vapour escaped and when
the fridge engine clicked on it blew the hell out of the
fridge and the lab."
- By Amy McGillivray of the Bay of Plenty Times