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Rural fires highlight need for home sprinklers

Rural fires highlight need for home sprinklers

January 20, 2006

Two large house fires in the space of 24 hours in rural Manukau have left two devastated families without homes, highlighting the need to protect rural and lifestyle properties from fires.

The first fire in Griggs Road, Whitford, on Wednesday night (January 18) is believed to have started in the kitchen and left virtually no trace of the large house behind.

The second, on Clifton Road, Whitford, last night levelled a house while the owner was away. The fire’s cause is still being investigated, with fire investigators not ruling out arson.

Both fires were in lifestyle blocks out of Manukau City, without reticulated water and Manukau District fire safety officer George Stephens says both fires would have had dramatically different results had sprinklers been installed.

“If you look at both of these houses, there’s nothing left. Sprinklers would most likely have contained the fires to the room they started in.

“If you’re going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars building properties like these, it makes sense to invest a few thousand in making sure they will survive a major fire.”

Mr Stephens says people in rural areas close to the city need to realise that even if they call 111 immediately, the Fire Service is at least ten minutes away and a lack of reticulated water access means more time is lost setting up hoses and pumps to fight the fire.

Manukau City Council principal rural fire officer Bryan Cartelle agrees people in lifestyle blocks need to think fire safety from a rural perspective, rather than an urban one.

“It’s one thing giving the address to the Fire Service, but it another to have someone at the end of the driveway to help firefighters find the property.”

Mr Cartelle says valuable times is wasted as firefighters try to identify the correct property on unlit roads with long driveways hiding the house from the street.

He says rural property owners need to be aware that firefighters can’t bring enough water with them to fight big fires and need access to other supplies.

“We often don’t know there’s a swimming pool on the property, and if the smoke is blowing that way, we won’t see it.”

Mr Cartelle estimates 180,000 litres of water was pumped onto one of the fires.

A home sprinkler would have extinguished it in a matter of minutes pumping between 60 and 100 litres per minute.

Mr Cartelle says he is happy to discuss with any rural property owners how to get around these problems, but reiterates the Fire Service message that sprinklers and smoke alarms are the best means of defence against fire.

ENDS

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