Fire leads to heating unit test

FIRE ALARM: Fire safety investigator Dave Jenkins and Pukete station dhofficer Dennis Holden at the scene of a ceiling fire
FIRE ALARM: Fire safety investigator Dave Jenkins and Pukete station dhofficer Dennis Holden at the scene of a ceiling fire

A series of ceiling fires possibly sparked by heat transfer system motors are under investigation to see whether a widespread fault exists.

The latest incident occurred in the Hamilton suburb of Dinsdale shortly before 10am on Thursday when a mother-of-two popped out for an appointment and switched on her heating system.

The woman, who asked not to be named, returned home to a severely smoke-damaged house.

An investigator said the fire appeared to have started on the motor unit that sucks hot air from the lounge to other rooms.

Senior specialist fire investigator Colin Clemens said the Fire Service is aware of about five similar incidents in the past 12 months, "apparently involving a heat transfer systems".

"We are currently working with WorkSafe to attempt to verify if a potential problem exists."

A spokesman at the company whose brand is one of those involved, said he had not heard about the incident.

"I'd rather not make any further comment until we hear from the fire brigade."

Firefighters from Hamilton and Pukete stations responded to yesterday's emergency calls to find the house in Ranui St heavily smoke-logged.

Pukete station officer Dennis Holden said the fire had been well alight in the ceiling cavity but it had choked itself of oxygen when they arrived.

Smouldering fragments had also fallen onto the carpet. Had they landed on a bed or furniture, then the damage could have been much worse, he said.

Numerous ceiling tiles had to be removed so hot spots could be doused.

The occupant, who lived in the house with her partner and two children, aged 6 and 9, said she switched on the heat transfer unit to warm up her children's bedrooms for their return from school.

"It's amazing how fast it happens," she said. "I was gone for 10 minutes.

"I'm lucky because it could have been a lot worse.

"I'm grateful to the neighbours and schoolkids who called the emergency number."

The smoke alarm was also activated.

Fire safety investigator Dave Jenkins analysed the scene.

He said it looked like the motor on the heat transfer unit caught fire and set alight the plastic-coated tubes that connected different rooms.

"[The motor] actually fell out of the ceiling and dropped into the hallway and by that stage the fire was going quite well," he said.

The occupant was insured.

Waikato Times