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Disused saunas a common fire hazard

Nearly half of all home fires are started by residents, usually as the result of carelessness. When a home electric sauna is used for storage and the heater gets turned on accidentally, it can easily lead to disaster.

Sähkökiuas kytketään päälle.
Image: Tommi Parkkinen / Yle

Jaakko Pukkinen, who heads up rescue services in the west coast regions of Central Ostrobothnia and Jakobstad, says that people seem to have become even more careless of late.

Something that he calls a "worrying" trend throughout the country is the use of home electric saunas as storage areas and for drying clothes.

As long as the sauna stove or heater is still hooked up to the electricity supply, this can pose a serious fire hazard.

"If the sauna isn't being used, the stove should be disconnected. At very least the fuses should be removed from the circuit, but preferably the wiring should be disconnected so that it cannot come on under any circumstances," Pukkinen advises.

Too many deaths

Fire hazards are a serious concern of emergency services officials, and for good reason. Figures from the national Emergency Services College show that on average 74 people die in fires annually in Finland. Nationwide, 73 have already died this year. Deaths in fires in the Central Ostrobothnia and Jakobstad region alone have hit an all-time annual high of five.

Another indication of the carelessness Jaakko Pukkinen says can be so deadly is neglecting to keep home smoke alarms in working order. Also, with more and more electric devices in homes, people are plugging in more extension cords, potentially causing dangerous overloads.

Pukkinen advises special care with open fire such as candles. If a fire starts, fast action can be decisive. Fire blankets and just water are good additions to the fire extinguishers every home should have.

"Extinguish any fire as long as you can do so safely without risking injury. The saviour should not have to become the saved. If you put out a fire, still call emergency services to come check the situation," says Jaakko Pukkinen.

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