Fire brigade highlights safety focus

17:29, Dec 17 2012
smoke alarm
Little trooper: Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade members found this smoke alarm still ringing in a house on Waikawa Rd that was gutted by fire on November 25

A smoke alarm found blaring as a house burned down around it was a reminder to people to check theirs - especially in children's bedrooms, Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy fire chief Rod Thomas says.

Firefighters were impressed the mangled lump of plastic continued to shriek as 261 Waikawa Rd was gutted by fire while unoccupied on November 25.

Mr Thomas said the alarm would have woken anyone sleeping in the house when it burned in the middle of the night.

"It's one of those evil necessities. They need to be in bedrooms, doorways and in the kitchen - especially where there's kids."

Most people killed by house fires were unable to smell the smoke because they were sleeping.

NZ Fire Service statistics show more than 25 per cent of house fires start in the kitchen and cause more than 20 per cent of fire-related deaths.


A range of detectors are available including alarms fitted with strobe lights or connected to vibrating pads which can go under a deaf person's pillow. Fire brigade members can help install the alarms.

Keeping a cellphone somewhere safe was important because a cordless phone will stop working once the power is cut.

Residents heading away on holiday were reminded to turn electrical appliances off at the wall and bach-dwellers were reminded to dispose of hot ashes in metal containers instead of trusting them to be cold and dumping them in the bush which could be "tinder dry" over summer.

"There's houses here that are absolutely surrounded by bush and they can be in very difficult places to get to.

"There's a whole lot being asked of the volunteers at the moment, but if people know they need to check things themselves it's better for everyone."

Campers could check their gas appliances were not leaking by spraying valves with soapy water, which will bubble if there is leak.

Tents were often set closely together which meant fires quickly spread, he said.

"If one tent goes up, usually three or four go up and you can have kids running around - it can be pandemonium."

The Fire Service attended more than 3700 house fires last year. More than 80 per cent of the homes did not have working smoke alarms.