Fire linked to recalled heat device

JOELLE DALLY
Last updated 05:00 09/07/2014

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A faulty heat transfer unit is being blamed for a fire that left a Canterbury family homeless.

The fire, in Lincoln on Saturday, is the latest in a spate of house fires across New Zealand attributed to four models of Weiss heat transfer units overheating.

Weiss voluntarily recalled the problem units after the Fire Service found they had caused 23 house fires since 2009, most of which were in the last year.

Worksafe NZ banned their sale on June 20, but the Fire Service says the message has not got through.

The units, which are sold at hardware stores and other retailers, operate in ceiling spaces and move warm air through ducts to heat rooms.

Ten of the 23 fires were in Canterbury.

Saturday's blaze, in Shands Rd, was the 24th attributed to one of the faulty models.

The homeowner, who asked not to be named, was working on his lifestyle property when he heard his smoke alarm about 3.15pm.

He found smoke coming out of the roof, and phoned 111.

The fire spread through the unit ducting into four rooms.

"We're very lucky I was home. It wouldn't have taken much longer for it to have been [completely engulfed].

"It's worse than an inconvenience. We're out of the house for I'm not sure how long," he said.

He was relieved the fire did not start at night.

"My children could have been in their beds. They would have seen flames falling from the ceiling," he said.

Had he known about the recall, the unit would have been switched off, he said.

Fire risk management officer Ian Duncan said homeowners should check their heat transfer units and, if they have a recalled model installed, get it removed and replaced. "People aren't aware of the ban. We don't want to get to the stage where we have to drag someone out of a house and they die. That is an absolute possibility."

Most smoke alarms were installed below the heat transfer units, so they did not sound until the fire was large enough for flames to drop into rooms, he said.

"Your time to escape is so much less."

Weiss said earlier that its new units had additional safety features.

 

SAFETY RECALL

The safety warning relates to the below Weiss Heat Transfer Units which were produced before May 2012: FV 602 FV 603 FV 652 FV 653

If you have one of these units, turn it off and call the manufacturer on 0800 208 008 for advice.


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