Firefighters say the death of a 79-year old Whanganui woman following a house fire 10 days ago could have been prevented with a working smoke alarm.

The woman was rescued by firefighters attending the blaze on April 22, and taken to hospital in a critical condition after being revived at the scene, but subsequently died from her injuries the next day.

Eighteen people have now been killed in avoidable house fires since July 2015.

Whanganui Fire Service area commander Bernie Rush said a smoke alarm was located in the hallway but it did not contain a battery.


"It's extremely disappointing, given two older women died in a similar way in 2014 - unfortunately, history has repeated itself."

Mr Rush said the woman called 111 after discovering the fire, which is believed to have been caused by an electric blanket in her bedroom.

"We strongly advise people to get out of the house first, and then call for help from a safe place nearby, because house fires can kill in minutes. The smoke is extremely toxic and can overwhelm people in seconds."

He saids a working smoke alarm would have given her more warning and more time to escape.

The Fire Service recommends people install photo-electric smoke alarms with a built-in long-life battery. They are particularly useful for rental properties because the batteries can't be removed and don't need to be replaced, and long-life photo-electric smoke alarms are also cheaper in the long run, lasting up to 10 years.

Mr Rush noted that electric blankets could cause fires, and said they should be replaced every five years with newer heat-protected models, which are safer.