Toaster switch catches on door, causing fire

JO MCKENZIE-MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

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A fire that badly damaged an Alexandra home after a toaster stored in a cupboard was inadvertently turned on, is the third such incident in the town.

Station officer Shane Ryan said a fire on Friday at a home in Old Bridge Rd was caused by a toaster that had been put away in a roller-door-type cupboard. The door caught the toaster switch and kept it turned on.

"This caused the inside of the cupboard to heat up, starting a fire inside the cupboard."

Because no-one was home, the fire went unnoticed, spreading to the kitchen then to several other rooms and causing extensive damage.

A neighbour noticed the smoke and called the fire service several hours later, Mr Ryan said.

"In Alexandra there have now been three similar incidents over the last few years with two of these resulting in fires that caused substantial structural, heat and smoke damage to the homes involved. Nationally, there have been similar accidental fires of this type throughout the country that could have been avoided."

It was important that people turned off all electrical appliances at the wall socket. It was also possible to install an electrical cut-off switch on the cupboard roller door to prevent such an incident, he said.

The owner of the home, Nugent Dowling, said he and his wife had left for Wanaka about two hours before a friend staying at the house had put the toaster in the cupboard.

The fire service, with the consent of the Dowlings, would hold an open home on Sunday at 5 Old Bridge Rd between 1pm and 3pm for the public to view the damage and listen to firefighters highlight stages of fire spread, along with relevant fire safety advice.

"It will graphically demonstrate the importance of closing doors in buildings and show how several rooms next to the kitchen were undamaged because the owners simply had closed the doors."

Deputy chief fire officer Mark Hutton said every home should have a working photoelectric, long-life-battery smoke alarm in each sleeping area and other rooms.

"These alarms not only alert the occupants of smoke early on in fire development but also neighbours or passers-by, who hear activated alarms causing them to investigate. This normally leads to the emergency services being alerted early on in an event before fire takes hold, resulting in reduced fire spread and damage."

The fire service was happy to advise on the correct smoke alarms for dwellings and could install alarms for people who needed help.

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- The Southland Times

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