Spate of fires prompts call for checks

Firefighter William Murray, of Invercargill, demonstrates how the FLIR camera detects the...
Firefighter William Murray, of Invercargill, demonstrates how the FLIR camera detects the temperature of fluorescent and high-intensity discharge light fittings. Photo: Abbey Palmer
After an "overwhelming" number of structural fires in Southland in the last three months, Fire and Emergency New Zealand are asking the burning question - have you done the check?

From electrical malfunctions to flammable liquids, commercial buildings and homes across Southland have become "uninhabitable" recently after being devastated by fire.

Invercargill's fire risk management officer Murray Milne-Maresca stressed how important it was to regularly check electrical appliances and areas where flammable materials are kept.

A structural fire was when the "structural integrity of a building [had] been compromised", he said.

"This can include water pipes bursting, windows being destroyed, the wiring of a building being damaged, or toxic smoke and staining from fire damage which makes the building unlivable and unsafe."

One of the big fire risks was electronic devices being left on charge for too long, or covered by clothing or other materials, Mr Milne-Maresca said.

"Technology's got a lot to answer for ... kids leaving tablets under pillows charging at night, or even modems. They're designed as a bit of a heat exchanger and they need air around them or they could catch fire under something."

Mr Milne-Maresca said garage fires were also common due to flammable liquids being stored incorrectly.

"Garage fires are often caused by high fire-loading fuels and oils etc. Linseed oil rags, for example, will spontaneously combust so they need to be sealed in a metal tin for safe storage."

Fenz had also been working with Lighting Council New Zealand to promote regular maintenance on fluorescent and high-intensity discharge light fittings to reduce fire risk.

These lights had a life span of five to 10 years and should be replaced by the end of that time, he said.

Southlanders should get their electrician to check lighting and other electrical appliances for safety and efficient operation, he said.

Mr Milne-Maresca said in the event of structural damage, people should contact their insurance company as soon as possible.


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