Multibox fire tough lesson for family

SAFETY HAZARD: Fire safety officer Kevin Collins with a burnt out multi-plug box.
SAFETY HAZARD: Fire safety officer Kevin Collins with a burnt out multi-plug box.

Multiboxes cause fires when not used properly - a lesson learned the hard way by Timaru's McClenaghan family.

A fire that took 20 firefighters three hours to put out ignited at their Gleniti Rd home on June 1, when the owners were away from home.

The house is in the process of being demolished and owner Maureen McClenaghan said it will be a long, hard process but they will move back to Gleniti Rd.

"We have had overwhelming support from the community and we have learnt a lesson on how caring people can be in the community," she said.

The insurance company report into the fire confirmed it started in a bedroom.

The blaze was investigated by NZ Fire Service fire safety investigator Murray Caird, who found it was accidental and had started at the multibox.

"The fire service confirmed the multiboard containing my daughter's iPhone charger was where the fire started," McClenaghan said.

"It caused the loss of our entire home and contents. This has highlighted to everyone not to leave these chargers plugged in or multiboards turned on."

South Canterbury experienced about 75 electrical fires from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, with multiboxes being blamed for about 10 per cent of those incidents.

Timaru fire safety officer Kevin Collins said multiboxes were only for use with low current devices like TVs, radios, and stereo systems, where the load was less than 2 kilowatts or 2000 watts.

"The equipment should have a rating on it. Things people should not plug in include any form of heating device, because they exceed the safe rating of the multibox, or have the multibox operating at its maximum capacity continually," Collins said.

When plugging into the multibox people needed to avoid anything with an electric motor, particularly refrigerators or freezers, because the start-up current significantly increased the "safe working load", he said.

"Electricity is a safe medium, provided people use the safety measures required with their equipment."

The Timaru Herald