Awnings and gas fridges causing fires

Ill-fitting caravan awnings set up too close to gas refrigerators appear to have been the main cause in a spate of caravan fires in Waitaki.

Government health and safety regulator WorkSafe has just wrapped up its investigation, commissioned after Kurow and Otematata fire crews had responded to three caravan fires last month.

In each case, the caravan was destroyed within minutes.

A WorkSafe spokesman said the damage was so great, it was not possible to identify the equipment involved or whether a gas leak might have contributed to the fires.

However, the incidents appeared to have "involved a portable refrigerator set up too close to a caravan awning".

"Local conditions may also have played a part. We are told at Lake Aviemore there is an easterly wind that comes up between about 2pm and 4pm," he said.

"It is thought that the wind blew the canvas awning into the naked flame area of the fridge, causing the fire."

Kurow volunteer fire brigade chief John Sturgeon said the fact two fires "occurred at spots 50m of each other" suggested a recurring pattern.

"I think their findings check out with my own observations at the time. It's good we're on the same page," Mr Sturgeon said.

"The fires should remind people to check their equipment before setting up your camp site. Don't leave it until too late, and make sure all your connections are secure, particularly if you're using gas."

Worksafe's spokesman recommended people should check the connection with soapy water every time they replaced the gas equipment.

"In addition, combustible materials must be kept away from any naked flames," he said.

Mr Sturgeon said he had not attended any caravan fires in the last month. "However, with Easter just around the corner, I urge everyone to be careful," he said.

The Timaru Herald