It can take just three minutes for a fire to overwhelm a home, say authorities in the wake of three fatal house fires earlier this week.
On Monday three people died in three separate house fires across New Zealand – in Palmerston North, Waihī and the Far North district.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) risk reduction and investigations manager Todd O'Donoghue said the organisation was still working on the causes of the fires.
But no one could afford to be complacent about the risk of fire in their home, he said.
"In all three cases the fires were really fast … often it's not the flames that kill people, unfortunately smoke can get to people long before the flames get to them."
"That being said though, flames themselves can take over and catch through a whole house in about three minutes."
"In fact most people are quite surprised at the speed of fire and just how real fire gets, fast."
He suggested homes have working smoke alarms which they tested regularly, and had a practised fire plan so everyone in the home knew how to get out in case of fire.
Fires in kitchens were the biggest cause of home fires.
"Always make sure you're looking when you're cooking and make sure you switch off before you walk off, if you're going to head away from the stove."
With the colder months coming on, he also urged caution with heaters, fireplaces and electric blankets.
"If you've got electric blankets make sure you've had them checked by an electrician, that you've got them flat on the bed, and that you use them to warm your bed and then turn them off again before you get into bed.
"If you're using your heaters make sure they're a metre away from anything that can catch fire.
"With open fireplaces, dispose of ashes into a metal bucket with a lid, well clear of anything that can catch fire.
"Ashes can stay hot enough to start another fire for up to five days after they've been in the fires."
He hoped FENZ would have more information throughout the week on the cause of Monday's fatal house fires.
How to reduce the risk of fire in the home:
Ensure smoke alarms are fitted and regularly tested
Have and practise a fire plan
Looking when you're cooking, and switch off the stove if walking away
Have electric blankets checked by an electrician, lay flat on the bed, and turn off before getting into bed
Ensure heaters are a metre away from anything that can catch fire
Dispose of fireplace ashes into a metal bucket, clear of anything that can catch fire