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Kitchen design feature sparks fires

Kitchen design feature sparks fires

In the past month, one Northland home has been destroyed and another badly smoke damaged by fires linked to a common kitchen design feature.

The kitchen or bench ‘appliance garages’ which have a pull-down door to hide away toasters, hot water jugs, and other small appliances are a surprisingly common cause of fires.  If the appliance is not pushed well into the cupboard, the door can easily be accidentally lowered onto the ON/OFF switches or toaster arms.  In the past five years, several homes have been destroyed as a result of these fires.

On 12 December, a two-storey home in Mangawhai was gutted by fire after the roller door of the cabinet was accidentally pulled down onto a toaster handle and the family left the house.  By the time the fire was noticed, it was too late to save the house, said Specialist Fire Investigator Gary Beer.

The second fire, on New Year’s Day, left a Whangarei home badly smoke logged when, again, the appliance garage door was pulled down onto a toaster handle.  “The occupant was at home and was alerted to the fire by a smoke alarm.  However, much of the house was smoke logged,” said Mr Beer.

National Manager Fire Investigation and Arson Reduction Peter Wilding said it doesn’t take long for heat to build up in these cabinets and a fire can start within a few minutes.
He raised the issue with some of the national organisations that represent kitchen designers two years ago to make them aware of the problem.  At least one major manufacturer now includes micro switches that shut off power to the cabinet when the door is lowered.

“However, a lot of homes have these types of appliance garages, and the recent fires are a reminder that they pose a very real risk of fire.  Our advice is to turn all appliances off at the wall when they are not being used, but ideally, in these types of cabinets, it would be better to have an electrician install the micro switch.” 

A  Fire Service warning to home owners and building industry relating to these cabinets can be viewed here.


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