Firefighters show lessons learned from burned out house

Fire Officer Chris Foley showing a family through the charred remains of the house in Kaikohe.
Fire Officer Chris Foley showing a family through the charred remains of the house in Kaikohe.

The Kaikohe Fire Brigade has used the fire that destroyed a house in the town on November 16 to very good effect, in the hope that it will spare some families similar anguish, and risk to life.

The brigade invited everyone to an 'open home' on Saturday, so people could see for themselves just how devastating fire can be, and how quickly it can take hold.

The brigade, and Fire and Emergency NZ, were especially keen for children to see what had happened.

Read more: House fire reminder to stay vigilant of risks

The fire began on the corner of Monument and Tuhuna roads, when a child playing with a lighter or a sparkler accidently ignited a foam mattress. Her mother smelled smoke, rushed the girl and her baby brother outside, and tried to push the burning mattress out a window.

By then, however, the wall was already on fire and there was nothing she could do.

The first 111 call was made at 10.46am; when the fire brigade arrived eight minutes later the house was burning fiercely with flames erupting from every window.

Fire safety officer Roy Brickell, with help from Kaikohe's volunteer firefighters, were back there on Saturday morning to show members of the public around the skeletal remains of the house, having made it safe and cleared a path through the debris. Otherwise it was just as it was after the fire.

Fire and Emergency NZ staff were there to answer questions and provide information.

They were also hoping to arrange home safety visits, including smoke alarm installation, for other families in the area.

"We want people to come and have a look at the devastating effect of fire and how fast it can spread in a domestic building.

"The family was stunned by how quickly it all happened," Mr Brickell said last week.

He hoped the open home would lead to more people installing smoke alarms, heightened awareness of the need for an escape plan, the importance of having a safe meeting place and calling 111 early.

The home owner and the insurance company had agreed to the public invitation. The solo mother and the two children who were home at the time escaped unhurt.

A puppy, however, was not so lucky, and the family lost all their possessions apart from the clothes they were wearing.

After the fire Kaikohe-based health provider Te Hau Ora o Ngapuhi appealed for donations of clothing, bedding and kitchenware.

Operations manager Ebony Prime said the response had been "awesome," and the family now had everything they needed.

There could be a fresh appeal for help if they needed more help once they had a new home to move into.

- Northland Age

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