Fire Following Earthquake (FFE)
After a large earthquake, there is likely to be damage to buildings and infrastructure. This can mean there is more opportunity for a fire to start and spread. On rare occasions, a fire which starts following an earthquake can develop into a serious emergency.
Tips on how to stay safe and help prevent a fire after an earthquake:
- Make sure everyone in your household knows what to do in a fire and how to stay safe. Read about what to do in a fire (FireandEmergency.nz)
- Identify more than one escape route out of your home and remove any furniture or items which could block your exit. Create a household escape plan (FireandEmergency.nz)
- Know how to turn off the power and gas for your property and, if appropriate, your neighbours’ properties in an emergency (powerco.co.nz)
- Have an emergency plan which includes your evacuation route, meeting points and places you could go to keep warm and dry if you couldn’t go home.
- Have a small fire extinguisher available and know how to use it - but only tackle a small fire if it is safe to do so (a small fire is no bigger than a wastepaper bin).
- Practise your evacuation and emergency plan.
- Request a Home Fire Safety Check from Fire and Emergency New Zealand. Contact your local station (FireandEmergency.nz)
- Know that emergency services are likely to be stretched and may not be able to provide assistance.
- Do not rely on mains water working - the earthquake may have damaged water pipes.
What’s different about fire following an earthquake?
Fires can happen at any time, but following an earthquake, there are extra factors which mean that a fire is more likely to start and can spread more quickly. These are:
- The earthquake causes the ground to shake and move, which can crack gas pipes and damage power lines, electrical wiring and household appliances. This damage can ignite fires.
- Liquefaction, where some soils, particularly silt or sandy soils, turn into a muddy liquid, can cause damage to pipes and buildings. This can make firefighting efforts more difficult.
- Earthquake damage can block roads, which may delay the emergency response.
- Water may not be readily available due to damaged pipes.
- Damage to buildings can expose flammable materials, such as insulation, which can keep fires burning.
- Debris can fall into gaps between buildings and help a fire to spread more easily.
- A power outage might delay a fire starting. However, damaged household appliances and wiring could start a fire when the power is switched back on.