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2013/2014 avoidable, residential fire death numbers down

New Zealand Fire Service Media Release
Embargoed until 5:00am 1 July

2013/2014 avoidable, residential fire death numbers down

Any death in a house fire is of grave concern and in most cases they are avoidable.

The New Zealand Fire Service says over the past year, 10 people have lost their lives in a fire in their home.

“It is important we all take lessons from these deaths,” said Fire Service Chief Executive and National Commander Paul Baxter.

Over the past five years, 97 people have died in avoidable residential fires and in most cases there was no working smoke alarm to give an early warning. There were also a range of other common factors including living alone, alcohol use, leaving cooking unattended, and a significant proportion were living in rental accommodation.

Paul Baxter says the number of deaths is slowly declining. This year’s toll is the lowest on record and half the number of last year’s deaths. “However, we cannot afford to be complacent – we are aware of some fires where families and individuals escaped death by mere seconds. There are still over 3,000 house fires each year and as individuals and communities, we can do more to reduce this number. The most common cause of house fires is not looking
while you are cooking. If everyone simply stayed in the kitchen while they were preparing meals, this would reduce the number of house fires by about a quarter each year.”

Paul Baxter said the last avoidable house fire death was that of a 48 year-old man on 21 June in Otago. The rented house had no smoke alarms.
Half of all residential fire deaths take place in rental properties, yet only 35 per cent of the country’s housing stock is rental. “I encourage all landlords to make sure they fit their homes with long life photoelectric smoke alarms. These long life smoke alarms will help protect both lives and property. They also have the advantage that the batteries do not need replacing and are tamper proof.”
“Winter is also high risk time for fire,” Paul Baxter said. “Please take a few minutes to do a household fire safety assessment. Check or install smoke alarms, get rid of faulty electrical appliances, make an escape plan for the family, and make sure lighters and matches are out of the reach of children. Also make sure you keep any embers or ashes in a metal container and douse with water before disposing of them.”

July to end June year 2014

YearDeathsRate per populationNumber of residential fires (includes caravans and sleep outs excludes chimney fires)

Note: 2009/10 and 2011/12 recording of figures for total number of residential structure fires was affected by industrial action. The recording of fatalities was not affected.
Avoidable residential house fire deaths excludes deliberately set fires (i.e. homicide, suicide)

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