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Firefighters offer safety tips for winter months

After a hectic weekend for Wairarapa fire crews that featured five separate callouts, local firefighters are urging people to get prepared for being ‘fire safe’ for winter.

“As winter comes, there are things that can be a risk, such as chimneys, electric blankets and wet firewood,” Grant Detheridge-Davies, Masterton Fire Station’s community readiness and recovery advisor, said.

Noting that April is the perfect time to get ready, Detheridge-Davies said that chimneys can often be the source of fires and that it is important to have them swept.

“In addition, it is important to ensure that the wood that goes in the fireplace is dry and not wet or green in colour,” he said, because this can cause a build up of tar and acidic residues that are a major cause of chimney fires.

He also noted that the ash in the fireplace can be a source of unwanted fires if it isn’t completely out before you dispose of it.

“‘Cool the ash before you stash’ is what we like to say,” Detheridge-Davies said.

“Make sure the fireplace is cooled down and make sure that the ash is soaked with water and is in a metal bucket before you bin it.”

The other big risk of fires over winter is electric blankets – Detheridge-Davies said it’s wise to get these tested by a local electrician or electrical shop before the cold weather sets in.

“We usually recommend they get replaced every five years,” he added.

Another point Detheridge-Davies was eager to make is that fires can reignite months after they were first started.

“We may be moving into an open fire season, but it doesn’t mean the risk is gone,” he said.

“People could light a fire now that goes down and then reignites months later, say, when we are back to no-fire season.

“People need to make sure their fires are fully extinguished.”

Although not specific to winter, Detheridge-Davies also iterated the importance of people following the ‘three golden rules’ of fire safety preparedness.

“These rules are: first, ensuring that you have working smoke alarms; second, having an escape plan with two ways out; and third, having a safe meeting place in the home.”

More information about fire risks, preventative actions, and other ways to keep safe can be found on the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website: fireandemergency.nz

If you are interested in becoming a firefighter, Masterton Fire Station is holding an information and practice session this Saturday at 10:30am.

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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