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Increased heater use brings risk

CARALISE TRAYES
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2014
heater

FIRE RISK: Firefighters urge heater owners to beware after three fires were started by heaters last week.

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Firefighters are warning people to be extra wary after three heater fires in a week.

A gas heater, electric fan and space heater were the source of separate blazes in Stanmore Bay, Red Beach and Orewa.

All occurred during some of Auckland's coldest days of the year.

No-one was injured but several of the fires could have turned serious very quickly, Waitemata fire risk management officer Don McErlich says.

Two started in bedrooms and one in a lounge. One house had no working smoke alarms.

"Fortunately they were all found in the nick of time," McErlich says.

"One of the fires in a bedroom started when a parent walked out for just a few moments. Another started while a baby was sleeping in the same room.

"It was very lucky it was found."

The gas heater fire started with an explosion when the gas had been flowing unignited for some time, McErlich says. The heater exploded when the owner went to start it.

A space heater is normally a safe device, but with clothing covering the ventilation it can heat up, igniting material quickly, McErlich says.

"When you put anything over a heater it will overheat and catch fire."

The cause of the fire involving an electric fan is still under investigation, he says.

"It's cold and it's winter, people are cranking the heaters. Please be careful," McErlich says.

"Everything should be a metre away from a heater, that's our recommendation.

"If there is a fire, call the fire brigade, even if you have put it out.

"We can ensure it has been properly extinguished, investigate the cause and offer fire safety advice.

"Defective products can be picked up this way too," he says.

Visit fire.org.nz for fire safety information.

From July 1, 2013 to June 30 this year a total 27 fires involving heater units was recorded in the region from Mercer north, including Auckland.

A house fire in Swanson on Monday night was started by a heater.

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