Extension cord, phone charger started fire

The fire which destroyed a house in Queenstown last week was caused by either an extension cord or the cellphone charger plugged into it.

Seven volunteer fire crews Queenstown, Frankton and Alexandra were called to the fire at 1am on February 8, which extensively damaged the Weaver St home.

Central-North Otago Fire Risk Management Officer Stu Ide said the investigation was ongoing, however, the fire resulted from ''an electrical event which has occurred on a bed, associated with a charger for a cellphone''.

Mr Ide said the cellphone charger was lying on a bed, plugged into an extension cord.

The extension cord was plugged in to the wall, with power going to it.

''The young lady was in the habit of connecting her cellphone to the charger when she went to bed at night and then she'd disconnect it and walk away from it and leave the charger still with power on from the wall.

''So, the lesson we learn from that is when you finish with an appliance, you actually turn it off at the wall.

Mr Ide planned to send the cellphone cord and extension cord away for further examination hoping to determine the ''exact cause'', however, ''we may not have enough [left] at the end of the day to take it any further''.

Steph Drader, of Glenorchy, had been the property manager for the home for 30 years.

She told the Otago Daily Times on Monday it would be demolished.

The owner of the property, a New Zealand man who lived permanently in Brazil, was insured. However, the four female tenants, all in their late 20s, were not and had lost everything, Mrs Drader said.

A Givealittle page had raised just over $4000 by yesterday to help the women.

Mrs Drader told the ODT while the property was fitted with two ''10-year smoke alarms'' on the living level, the only tenant inside at the time did not hear either go off.

''What woke her up was the heat in her bedroom.

''It was the bedroom next door to her that was on fire.

''She is a very lucky girl.''

Mrs Drader said she was ''really, really devastated''.

''She was looking at photos [on Monday] and she's just in tears.

''[On Monday] she found out it would cost her about $1100 to replace the key for her car because it's got a locking system with a chip in it and the chip's melted.''

The women had lived in Queenstown for about four years and had been Weaver St tenants since 2015, she said.

Mrs Drader took exception to comments from a neighbour, reported in the ODT on Friday, that parties were held there regularly.

''The girls were just absolutely fabulous tenants. They never missed paying their rent once and there were no issues with them whatsoever.

''This summer has been one of those summers where people are outside so much and sit around chatting ... and suddenly it might be 10pm because it's still daylight, but that's not a 'party house'.''

The bond on the property had been released and a rent refund had been given to the women.

Mr Ide understood smoke alarms had been installed but

nobody had heard them activate and he found no evidence of them, due to the extensive damage.

Mrs Drader said it was a timely reminder for tenants to ensure smoke alarms were in working order at all times.

''Smoke alarms are there to save people; it's not to save the house.''

tracey.roxburgh@odt.co.nz

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