Old rangehood fires risking lives

16:00, Nov 29 2012
FIRE RISK: Rangehoods installed before regulations came into place could increase the effects of fire.

Kitchen rangehoods installed before building regulations came into place could be placing residents in grave danger, a fire officer says.

This comes after a North Shore woman suffered severe smoke inhalation when a kitchen fire spread rapidly through her rangehood.

Her home was damaged as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze in the roof cavity.

Devonport station officer Martyn Baker said cooking oil and residue had filtered into the roof via the rangehood for what could have been months and all it took was a spark on the stove to trigger the fire.

Rangehoods that ventilate into the roof space, instead of outside, are effectively dangerous fuel lines for cooking fires to spread quickly throughout the house, Waitemata senior fire risk management officer George Stephens said.

It is a breach of the New Zealand Building Code to install a rangehood that finishes in the roof cavity.

But many homes still have rangehoods that were installed before the regulations were introduced. 

Stephens is now urging home owners to review their extraction systems for their own safety.

He said it was not uncommon for firefighters to attend house fires made worse by outdated rangehoods.

''With any kind of ignition a poorly maintained rangehood or one that ventilates into the ceiling space will assist the fire spread and the damage has the potential to be much greater,'' Stephens said.

The heat build-up was extreme and the flames were often difficult to reach, he said.

Kitchen fires made up a quarter of callouts in the Waitemata area and about 14 per cent of those go into the roof area.

A1 Rangehood Installations owner Peter Martin said there were some tradespeople who still ignored regulations.

''Unfortunately rangehoods aren't a great consideration when building and there are some tradesmen that don't follow the correct installation instructions.''

He said the building code was ''pretty obscure'' when it comes to rangehoods.

The Business, Innovation and Employment Ministry said it had not conducted an audit to determine how many homes have illegal rangehoods.

But it was up to property owners to ensure their rangehood or extractor fans complied with the law.

Cheaper systems imported from China were also a potential fire risk.

''They are very popular for the obvious reason of cost but I won't use them. The ducts are made from plastic and they have no fire rating. In a fire they would just burn and melt and probably accelerate the fire.''

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