Fatalities preventable says fire boss

NEIL RATLEY AND BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014
wanaka fire
CHE BAKER/ Fairfax NZ

FATAL FIRE: A lone police officer guards the site of a fatal house fire in Albert Town.

Tribute to Bruce Cochrane
CHE BAKER/ Fairfax NZ
TRIBUTE: A photo with the words 'Go well Bruce. Loved by many' was placed near the property.

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A fatal fire near Wanaka has made this year one of the most deadly in the south for fires in more than a decade.

The fire, in which Albert Town man Bruce Cochran died last week, was the third fatal fire in the south this year.

The fire is believed to have started in a downlight.

In June, a 48-year-old man lost his life in a house fire near Balclutha and in March a caravan fire claimed the life of a 44-year-old woman in Invercargill.

Southern acting area commander Julian Tohiariki said three fatal fires in a year was a lot but it was more luck than good management that had prevented other years from also having more fatalities.

The two fatalities earlier this year were frustrating. If simple fire safety practices had been followed, the outcomes could have been different, he said.

He could not comment on the latest fire because it was still under investigation.

However, the circumstances around both the previous fires this year were, sadly, almost identical and, frustratingly, preventable, he said.

It appeared in both cases the occupants were living in temporary or makeshift accommodation.

No working smoke alarms, candles and alcohol also appeared to be a common link in the fatal fires, he said last month.

The March fatality was the second in a caravan in the past five years in Southland, and more people are using caravans, sheds, garages and sleepouts as bedrooms.

"I want to urge Southlanders to make sure this type of ‘temporary' accommodation has a working smoke alarm, even if it is only used occasionally," Tohiariki said.

"These type of places usually have only one exit door so it was even more critical that a working smoke alarm was installed to give anyone inside early warning and a chance to get out alive." 

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- The Southland Times

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