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Butterick’s blaze triggers warning

Mike Butterick’s shed ablaze. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Farmer prompted to check alarms after fire

GRACE PRIOR
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Masterton farmer and former National candidate for Wairarapa Mike Butterick’s shed burnt down last week, leaving nothing but ashes and old carpet squares. Now, he’s warning anyone he can to check their smoke alarms and to think about what materials they’re using in their houses.

He said the fire had fully engulfed his shed within minutes of his household waking up.

“The quad basically melted. My daughter’s car was parked about five metres away, and within about three minutes of us getting up, her car was on fire.

“There were explosions and all the rest of it.”

Butterick holds up a piece of carpet uncharred by the fire. PHOTOS/GRACE PRIOR

Butterick said seeing what a fire could do in such a short space of time was a huge reminder to check smoke alarms inside the house.

“I’m as guilty as anybody else; I thought we would be all right because we bought long-term smoke alarms, and they’re only three to five years old.

“Well, sure enough, I went into one of my daughters’ rooms, and the smoke alarm wasn’t working.”

He said it was critical for people to get smoke alarms if they did not have them, and if they already had alarms, to check they were working.

“And don’t sit there and think that because your wiring was new and that smoke alarms are long-life ones, and you’re sweet because in some instances they don’t last as long as they’re meant to.”

Butterick said a fire inspector had thought the fire was caused by electrical wiring, “and the wiring was less than five years old”.

He said about three metres away from where the quad bike had burnt, there was a pile of carpet – the top layer had charred, but the layer underneath was “as good as the day it was made”.

“And it’s woollen carpet.”

He said along with the conversations people were having about their choices for the climate and environment, he wanted them to think seriously about what they were putting in their houses.

“Wool is naturally fire retardant, and a square metre of synthetic carpet has two litres of oil in it.

“The fire investigator was telling me that a modern couch holds the equivalent of 200 litres of petrol.”

Butterick said most people had been filling their homes with a massive fuel loading, but some options were safer for fires and better for the environment.

“You can make a difference with the choices you make. The cost is going to be borne by everyone.”

Fire services cleared the debris into a pile.

“The fire investigator was telling me that effectively it only takes three to four minutes for a room to be fully consumed; in the 1950s and 1960s, it used to be 24 minutes.

“It’s scary stuff.”

Fire and Emergency risk reduction and investigations manager Todd O’Donoghue said data showed that fire crews attended about 130 residential fires and 400 vegetation fires each holiday period.

“Most of these fires are preventable with a few easy steps. At home, always pay attention when you’re cooking, read instructions for new gadgets and toys – especially those with lithium-ion batteries.”

O’Donoghue said he wanted everyone to think about the risks and the restrictions in place.

“If there is an open fire season, you can light fires without a permit. A restricted fire season requires a permit for most activities, and a prohibited season means no open-air fires.”

Fire and Emergency said most of Wairarapa had a moderate fire danger, but some of the Tararua area near Eketahuna had a high risk.

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