The perils of unattended
cooking fires have sparked renewed safety warnings after a
family was lucky to escape serious injury or death, and a
pensioner was rescued in the nick of time by a woman walking
The fires at homes in the Whangarei suburbs of Onerahi and
Kensington occurred less than 10 hours apart and the Fire
Service said despite extensive and costly advertising telling
people not to cook after returning home from parties or the
pub, or not to leave cooking unattended, the message wasn’t
Whangarei firefighters were called to a house in Churchill St
about 5pm on Friday after an 86-year-old woman suffered
injuries trying to extinguish a burning pot of cooking oil.
The woman, who lives alone, discovered the burning pot on the
stove after leaving it unattended and burned a hand after
picking it up by the handle. She had then placed the pot in a
sink and turned on the cold water to try to put out the fire
but suffered more burns after the oil exploded on contact
with water. A woman walking her dogs saw flames coming out of
the kitchen, removed the woman from the house and took her to
Colin Gillies, who lives next door, said he allowed his
neighbour to relax in a garage while waiting for emergency
services to arrive. ‘‘She was quite coherent and had her wits
about her but that (fire) gave her a hell of a fright. She
tried to tell me what had happened,’’ he said.
‘‘Things could have been worse if it hadn’t been for that
lady walking her two dogs.’’
The injured woman was still in hospital yesterday.
Firefighters cooled her burns, extinguished the remaining
fire and ventilated the smoke.
About 2.30am on Saturday, firefighters in Onerahi went to a
rented property in Ross St after a fire broke out in a pot of
oil left unattended on a stovetop.
About half a dozen people, including a baby, lived at the
house. Senior Station Officer at Whangarei, Ron Wilson, said
he was surprised there wasn’t a fatality. An occupant had
come home after drinks and placed a pot on a stove to cook
food but fell asleep. Another occupant had seen flames and
alerted others. All escaped.
St John paramedics took a woman to Whangarei Hospital after
she inhaled smoke. The fire had gotten hold in the kitchen
and lounge when the Whangarei and Onerahi Fire Brigades
arrived. Bedrooms sustained extensive heat damage and the
family is currently staying with family and friends.
Mr Wilson said the family had had a lucky escape considering
50 per cent of fire fatalities involved alcohol. ‘‘People are
not learning. They are not listening despite a lot of money
being spent on advertising fire safety messages,’’ he said.
‘‘Don’t go home from parties and cook food. It’s also
important to have an effective house alarm. Cooking should
not be left unattended under any circumstances. If there is a
need to leave the kitchen, the stove should be turned off,’’
Mr Wilson also advised occupants to store household items
away from main exits because they could delay a speedy escape
In August 2009 a 29-year-old man died when the pan he was
using to cook a meal caught fire about 1am in an Otangarei