Oil starts house fire

By Kristin Edge

A pot of oil left unattended caused a Whangarei house to be severely damaged by fire and has left a family homeless.

Northland fire safety officials have warned the blaze was a graphic illustration of how quickly fire could spread due to carelessness and stressed unattended cooking was the leading cause of fires in New Zealand homes.

Firefighters and St John ambulance crews were called to the Housing New Zealand property on William Jones Drive about 8.30pm on Tuesday.

It's believed two adults and three children lived at the house, but no one was injured in the fire.

The fire crews were at the scene for nearly three and a half hours, ensuring there were no hotspots.

Two fire-safety officers were at the scene early yesterday, looking at the charred remains and trying to determine how the blaze began.

Fire investigator Craig Bain said it appeared the fire started in the kitchen after a pot of oil ignited.

"It just reiterates how important it is to watch oil on the stove. The oil or fat gets to ignition point and it just goes and starts everything else around on fire," Mr Bain said.

Police detectives were interviewing the street's residents.

Another home five metres away could have caught fire.

The heat melted a section of its plastic guttering.

Another neighbour initially thought the plume of smoke was rising from a rubbish fire but the sound of smoke alarms alerted her to a destructive house blaze.

The neighbour immediately told her daughter to dial 111. She said while she did not know the woman, her children or moko that well, she had approached her church for help for them.

Another neighbour said she was alerted to the blaze after she heard a man yelling "Fire, fire".

She had looked out the window to see "flames reaching up into the sky".

The New Zealand Fire Service warned that unattended cooking was the leading cause of fires and deaths in the home. Figures showed fires from unattended cooking accounted for a third of all fire deaths in New Zealand, and a third of all residential structural fires.

One in 12 kitchen fires resulted in an injury and people were one and a half times more likely to be injured in a kitchen fire than in other residential fires.

Alcohol also played a significant role and was a factor in 50 per cent of all fires, usually due to people coming home from the pub, putting the pan on and falling asleep.

It could take less than a minute for a fire to start in the kitchen and under three minutes to tear through a home.

If you do have an oil fire in the kitchen you should:

  • Never throw water on it.

  • Never attempt to carry it outside.

  • Turn the power or gas off, if you can, either at the stove or the mains.

  • If safe to do so use a pot lid or large flat object like an oven tray to place over the pan, starving the fire of oxygen.

  • Get out of the house and stay out. Call the Fire Brigade from a safe phone.

  • Not drink and fry. Alcohol is involved in 50 per cent of all fatal fires. Get takeaways delivered instead.

  • Have working smoke alarms and an evacuation plan.

- Northern Advocate

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