Electric blanket fire a warning

MARY-JO TOHILL
Last updated 17:09 30/07/2014
Stuart Ide
MARY-JO TOHILL/Fairfax NZ
Central North Otago Fire Safety Officer Stuart Ide with the remains of a faulty electric blanket that caught fire.

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A Queenstown woman has received a wake-up call that saved her life and could save others, Central North Otago fire safety officer Stuart Ide says.

She was woken early in the morning by flames licking her wrist, and while this was a terrifying experience, at least she was still alive to tell the tale, he said.

Thousands of people who had gone to sleep with their electric blankets on, and been burnt to death in their beds, or overcome by smoke and flames, were not so lucky.

"She was lying in bed, facing the room, with her hand out the side. Had she been turned the other way, we would have had a fatality."

Although the family did everything right, by shutting the bedroom door to contain the fire, it was a cautionary winter tale, he said.

The fire started as a result of wear and tear on the cord immediately attached to the blanket's controller, an all too common occurrence.

"If you can see any exposed, coloured wire, then you are at risk."

This is regardless of the blanket's age, he said.

Ide could not stress enough that people should switch them off at the wall when they go to bed. He also recommended that a three-bedroom house should have five smoke alarms - one in every bedroom, the living area and the hallway.

Your house number should be clearly visible so it can be found easily, he said. House fires were of particular concern in Queenstown's high fire risk areas such as Alpine Retreat area, known to emergency services and the Department of Conservation as the "Red Zone".

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