Family run maze of smoke, flames, to escape ‘beast’ of a fire that took everything

The man stood in borrowed shoes and yesterday's clothes, and the woman sat wrapped in a blanket, crying, in a people-mover.

About 100 metres away, close enough to catch the faint whiff of smoke still pouring out of it, was their home.
A Paekākārikihouse is ravaged by flames.

A Paekākāriki house is ravaged by flames.

Whatever else they lost, the couple and their three-year-old daughter were still alive after facing a wall of smoke and flames in the darkness. It was hard to tell whether they should be devastated or relieved. They were both

The  couple who lost everything on Wednesday morning in the  Paekākāriki house fire have spoken about running through  a maze of smoke and flames, and carrying their child to safety, on the Kāpiti Coast north of Wellington.

The aftermath of the house fire in Paekākāriki. with one of the homeowners being comforted in the foreground.

The aftermath of the house fire in Paekākāriki. with one of the homeowners being comforted in the foreground. - John Maxwell/Stuff


The woman, who did not wish to be named, spoke wrapped in a blanket, only a few hours after the fire in their two-storey, rimu weatherboard home on Wellington Rd at about 5am.

She said she "just heard something strange" that woke her from her sleep in a bedroom on the top storey of the house.

The woman looked out the front bedroom window and there were flames running up from the porch below.
Firefighters attempt to put out the fire at a Paekākārikihouse.

Firefighters attempt to put out the fire at a Paekākāriki house.

She yelled out "fire" to her partner and grabbed their daughter.
Her partner ran to alert a guest staying overnight, who had just arrived on Tuesday from the Netherlands, and all four plunged downstairs into smoke, so thick and dark it blocked their way.

"Then you opened the lounge door but you couldn't get through the lounge, so we tried to go the kitchen but you couldn't get through the kitchen so we went out the back door.  By the time we were on the second level, the top was already alight," she said.
The rimu weatherboard home, built in the early 1900s, destroyed by fire in Paekākāriki.

The rimu weatherboard home, built in the early 1900s, destroyed by fire in Paekākāriki. - John Maxwell/Stuff

Her partner stood nearby on the Beach Rd footpath, away from a tangle of fire hoses and fire service trucks dampening the smouldering remains,

The man said he felt sick. "It hasn't really hit home yet either. I know I'm going to be numb for a long time."

He said he helped get everyone outside and then tried to fight the flames with a garden house, but it was pointless.
Firefighters dampen the remains of the house fire in Paekākāriki.

Firefighters dampen the remains of the house fire in Paekākāriki. - John Maxwell/Stuff

Then the man saw the flames fanning out towards the wooden house next door, of a similar age, and he ran and pounded on their door.

"I said 'you guys have got to get out, it's heading your way'."

He had never seen anything like the flames that engulfed his home.

"They were pushing me back. The garden hose: totally pointless. The heat from that fire was the most intense I've ever seen. It had a life of its own, it was a beast. I lost hope."

They had lived in the house for about 12 years, and were close to completing an ongoing renovation.

"That's one thing that hurts the most, it's such a piece of history, and we'd just finished [renovating] the front room, as the final room."

His mother and sister had arrived from Wainuiomata, bringing a pair of shoes for him so he at least had something to put on his feet.

"He's wearing his brother-in-law's shoes," his mother said.

The man's mother hugged him, crying. "Thank God you you all got out. I just thank God that everybody got out."

The house was insured but not the contents, the man said. They did not know what caused the fire, but they had lost everything they owned.

The Paekākāriki village community was already rallying to help the family on Wednesday morning.

Kāpiti Coast deputy mayor Janet Holborow said the village would do anything it could to help the family, and they were shocked at the loss of the iconic weatherboard home.

"The family is devastated, they walked out with just the clothes they were wearing."

She said a Givealittle page had already been set up and could be found by searching Paekakariki House Fire.

Emergency services were called just after 5am.

Volunteer firefighters from Paekākāriki Fire Station located just off Wellington Rd were the first on the scene  just after 5am and nine fire trucks from across the region attended.

Fire investigators  were on their way to the scene. It was unclear if the house had smoke alarms.

 

 - Stuff

Posted in Calls |

Neighbours praised for raising alarm about house fire in Porirua

A Porirua family was sitting down to watch Shortland Street, but then they saw smoke pouring out of their neighbour's garage.

"We looked out the window and there was just smoke everywhere," the neighbour, who asked not to be named, said.

He has been praised for his quick actions in raising the alarm, which enabled an elderly man in the house to escape.

Fire crews are continuing to investigate the fire that gutted an Ascot Park home on Wednesday night.

Fire crews are continuing to investigate the fire that gutted an Ascot Park home on Wednesday night. - ROSA WOODS/STUFF

An intense house fire had started just after 7pm. It gutted the single-storey Ascot Park  home, north of Wellington.

"We just ran next door and simply to make sure that nobody was in there," the neighbour said.

The Ascot Park house was totally engulfed in flames by the time fire crew arrived.

The Ascot Park house was totally engulfed in flames by the time fire crew arrived. - ROSA WOODS/STUFF

"Nothing heroic or anything like that, we just banged on the door just to let them know because at that stage we didn't know if they were aware."

There was one elderly man in the front room of the house and after being alerted, he managed to get out before the fire spread.

"It just happens so quickly," the neighbour said of the fire.

Black smoke hangs over Porirua as crews tackle the fire.

Black smoke hangs over Porirua as crews tackle the fire. - PAIL SCHOFIELD

"What I've been told since then is if we hadn't notified him or got to him when we did he may well have been trapped inside."

Within minutes of the fire starting, several neighbours had come out to make sure everyone was alright, the neighbour said.

Fire crews were also quickly on the scene, the neighbour added.

In a facebook post the Porirua Fire Brigade praised the efforts of 'a few amazing neighbours' for raising the alarm on Wednesday night.

They also reiterated the importance of working smoke alarms to alert home owners to fire danger.

"We tell you over and over that smoke alarms save lives, well tonight a few amazing neighbours did the job of a smoke alarm and alerted the occupant of this house to the fact that his house was on fire," the post said.

The single-storey house on Almora View was totally engulfed in flames by the time fire crews arrived.

The blaze was so intense that two cars next door also caught fire and thick black smoke blanketed the area.

A fire service spokesman said multiple calls were received about the fire.

One member of the public was treated for smoke inhalation.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and is being investigated, a fire services spokeswoman said.

 - Stuff

Posted in NEWS |

House significantly damaged in fire at Ascot Park in Porirua

A house fire broke out at Ascot Park in Porirua, north of Wellington, on Wednesday night.

Thick black smoke has blanketed the area, and four fire crews were at the scene.

A fire service spokesman said multiple calls were received about the fire, the first coming at 7.27pm.

Black smoke hangs over Porirua as crews tackle the fire. - PAUL SCHOFIELD


The bulk of the blaze had been extinguished, but fire crews were still on scene to dampen down the area.

The single-storey house had sustained significant damage, the spokesman said.

A witness said it was thought no-one had lived in the house for several weeks.

At 8pm, smoke was still pouring from the house, and flames continued to burn on the inside.

Four fire trucks and a mobile command centre were in attendance.

A neighbour reported seeing flames leap as "high as the roof" before the first siren began sounding.

STUFF
Posted in NEWS |

House fire in Porirua East has been put out

The fire in Porirua on Friday afternoon

Two people have been treated for mild smoke inhalation after a house fire in Porirua.

Fire crews were called to the Arahura Cres, Waitangirua house shortly before 4pm on Friday.

Five fire appliances and an ambulance attended and two people from the house were treated for smoke inhalation.

A house in the Porirua suburb of Waitangirua is still smoking after a fire on Friday afternoon.


The house was ablaze when crews arrived but was put out before 5pm.

The cause of the fire is unknown and fire safety will investigate.

-Stuff
Posted in NEWS |

Two hospitalised after car crashes through Porirua fire station door and into fire truck

A witness saw firemen pulling a guy out of the passenger side of a Honda Accord that crashed in Porirua Fire Station on ...

A witness saw firemen pulling a guy out of the passenger side of a Honda Accord that crashed in Porirua Fire Station on November 6. - JARED NICOLL


Two men have been hospitalised after a car crashed into Porirua Fire Station and head-on into a fire truck.

Police were called to the station on Mungavin Ave shortly before 2pm on Monday after a Honda Accord smashed through the front of a roller-door and into a truck parked just behind it.

Wellington Free Ambulance spokeswoman Di Livingston said three men, aged in their mid-to-late 20s, were in the car.


A firefighter sweeps broken glass after a Honda Accord smashed into the front of Porirua Fire Station on November 6.

A firefighter sweeps broken glass after a Honda Accord smashed into the front of Porirua Fire Station on November 6. - JARED NICOLL

One suffered serious injuries while another suffered moderate injuries. Both were taken to Wellington Hospital.
 
The third man had only minor injuries.


A witness working nearby heard a bang as the car smashed into the station.

One of his customers said the car went straight across the busy roundabout where Mungavin Ave and Champion St intersect, before hitting the station, the witness said.

"Next I saw firefighters come to see what's wrong ... they pulled a guy out of the passenger side ... he just lay on the ground for the longest time."

A Fire Service spokesman said none of the fire fighters who were in the station at the time were injured.

A police spokeswoman said the vehicle had been towed from the scene.



- Stuff

Posted in NEWS |

Porirua firefighters make history with first female officer in 67 years

Margaret Smith is the Porirua Volunteer Fire Brigade's first female officer-in-charge since its establishment in 1950.

Margaret Smith is the Porirua Volunteer Fire Brigade's first female officer-in-charge since its establishment in 1950. - JAMES PAUL/STUFF 


Fresh out of firefighter training, Margaret Smith attended the "horrific" callout that would become the worst of her career.

She had been a member of Porirua's Volunteer Fire Brigade for two months when the crew were called to a house fire.

Two children had died in the flames that swept through the family home.

Margaret Smith, second right, at last year's International Firefighters Day event in Porirua. With her, from left, are ...

Margaret Smith, second right, at last year's International Firefighters Day event in Porirua. With her, from left, are Titahi Bay volunteer firefighter Lee Barrowman, Abbie McKoy from Porirua City Council, and Plimmerton volunteers' chief fire officer Carl Mills. - ABBIE McKOY 


Two decades on, Smith remembers every moment of that day, but she never regretted her decision to join the brigade.

It was a decision that led her to make history in her recent appointment as the brigade's first female officer-in-charge since its establishment 67 years ago.

It was dessert that landed the Porirua East resident in the hot seat.

In the late 1990s, she worked at a local cake shop and would walk the day's leftover sweets to the station down the road.

During one pudding delivery, a firefighter suggested she join the brigade.

"He said I'd be good at it. I didn't know him from a bar of soap, and I told him I wasn't sure. I went home and told my partner,  who said it sounded awesome, so we both joined."

While there might be no more free cake, the new perk is riding shotgun in the fire truck on callouts, leaving the driving for the boys.

Taking the mantle from longtime volunteer and now former officer John Leighton, Smith said her appointment wouldn't change how the brigade operated during callouts.

But she is taking a new hands-on approach by attending as many incidents as she can, whereas Leighton was non-operational and delegated jobs from the station.

"You just get on with the job that you're trained to do. We train to a point that everything you do is muscle memory, so that external factors can be thought about while everything else just happens," she said.

Not much about the job scares Smith but, when asked about what's made her nervous, a transfer of hazardous substances springs to mind.

"I remember thinking, 'Shit, if this thing goes boom and I get hurt, Mum isn't going to be very happy'.

"But it was a passing thought. I can't recall being scared of a job or during one. You've got to do what you've got to do, and think about it afterwards."

JAMES PAUL - Stuff

Posted in NEWS |

Fire brigade battle scrub fire near Porirua Station

A Porirua firefighter drags a hose through the Porirua stream to gain access to the scrub fire at the northern end of ...

A Porirua firefighter drags a hose through the Porirua stream to gain access to the scrub fire at the northern end of the railway station. JAMES PAUL


Firefighters battled a large scrub fire near Porirua Station this morning.

Fire Service central communications relieving shift manager Belinda Beets said the Porirua Fire Brigade were sent to 1 Station Road East, near Piggy Packers Rentals at about 10.20am to extinguish a large area of blazing toetoe flax.

Crew members clambered over a fence and through Porirua Stream with fire hoses to gain better access to the fire. Plumes of smoke could be seen a couple of kilometres away in the centre of Porirua.


Porirua Fire Brigade battle a scrub fire just outside Piggy Packers Rentals boundary, at the northern end of the railway ...

Porirua Fire Brigade battle a scrub fire just outside Piggy Packers Rentals boundary, at the northern end of the railway station. JAMES PAUL



The blaze was extinguished about midday, and no-one was injured.

One bystander, who was at the scene before the two fire engines arrived, said he saw a man on top of a container with a phone in one hand and a hose in another, trying to put out the flames.

It was not yet known how the fire started.


A bystander watches as firefighters try to gain better access to a scrub fire that rages at the northern end of Porirua ...

A bystander watches as firefighters try to gain better access to a scrub fire that rages at the northern end of Porirua Station. JAMES PAUL


JAMES PAUL
Posted in NEWS |

Homeless man in hospital after fire rips through Porirua bush

The makeshift camp is in a stand of pine trees by Porirua's Te Wananga O Aotearoa on Heriot Street.

VIRGINIA FALLON/FAIRFAX NZ The makeshift camp is in a stand of pine trees by Porirua's Te Wananga O Aotearoa on Heriot Street.

A homeless man thought to have been sleeping rough near Porirua is in hospital with serious burns after firefighters found him near death.

The 41-year-old man - found around 4.30pm on Thursday near the local shopping mall, north of Wellington - was initially taken to Hutt Hospital, then to the National Burns Centre at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital on Monday.

He has undergone several surgical procedures.


The scene of a fire on June 29 where a man - thought to be homeless - was badly injured.

VIRGINIA FALLON/FAIRFAX NZ The scene of a fire on June 29 where a man - thought to be homeless - was badly injured.


He is in a serious but stable condition, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Ferguson said police were continuing to investigate the cause of the fire and wanted to hear from anyone who was in the area at the time.

A 41-year-old man was found by firefighters with serious burns as they attended a fire in trees behind Porirua's North ...

GOOGLE MAPS A 41-year-old man was found by firefighters with serious burns as they attended a fire in trees behind Porirua's North City Plaza on Thursday.


"In particular, we would like to identify a man seen walking away from the scene in a northerly direction, along the grass bank," Ferguson said.

The man is described as Caucasian, 30 to 40 years old, of medium height and build and wearing long black pants and a grey puffer-type jacket.

He was carrying a grey or black backpack and witnesses described him as 'scruffy' and thought he may also have been living rough.
On Thursday, a witness to the fire said the burnt man's body and clothes were "smoking when he was dragged out of the pine trees".

Firefighters doused him with water before he was taken away by ambulance, she said.

Another witness, who did not want to be named, said he had seen a man "walking very quickly" away from the area.

On Tuesday, the charred remains of a makeshift camp remained among trees near Porirua's Te Wananga O Aotearoa on Heriot Drive.

Branches had been used to make a shelter and burned clothes, bedding, food and cooking utensils were strewn among the pine needles.

If you have information that could help the police investigation call Porirua Police on 04 238 1400.

 -  MATT STEWART AND VIRGINIA FALLON
STUFF

Posted in NEWS |

‘Big day’ as NZ’s fire services merge

It's the beginning of a new era for firefighters around the country, with the establishment of Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ).

Fire and Emergency New Zealand will bring together over 14,000 staff.

From 1 July 2017, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is replacing the New Zealand Fire Service. Photo: Supplied / Fire and Emergency New Zealand

The new organisation will merge the country's 40 rural, urban, career and volunteer fire services, and bring together over 14,000 staff, including 11,300 volunteers and 2800 career firefighters and support staff.



From 1 July 2017, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is replacing the NZ Fire Service and Rural Fire Authorities.

Rural firefighters in action Photo: Supplied / Fire and Emergency New Zealand


Tomorrow marks day one of the organisation, as the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act comes into effect, replacing the 40-year-old Fire Services Act.

FENZ national commander of urban fire and emergency Paul McGill said the changes meant their work responding to emergencies such as car crashes, medical calls, and weather events would be legally mandated.

He said firefighters around the country now attended more medical emergencies and car crashes than burning buildings and scrub fires.

"We're really excited about [the changes]. We think it's really time to bring all the services together so Saturday's a big day for us, it will give us the mandate we need to take on all the non-fire work we've been doing for quite a while and will help to improve the service significantly."

"The legislation we have been operating under is over 40 years old and doesn't recognise all the non-fire work that firefighters doing today, so this brings that up to date."

He said the new organisation could also provide a more coordinated response and better support for volunteers.

"With over 40 services now, they do differ in the resourcing they have, and the training they get, so we will be able to bring all that together to provide consistent service right around the country."

But Professional Firefighters Union secretary Derek Best said he was worried there might still be a divide between rural and urban firefighters, and that could spark confusion around who would be in charge when firefighters attended a callout.

"We still have the artificial barrier between urban and rural, and that seems to be going to continue for a little while, but that's what causes the problem - like in Wellington, the Mount Victoria area is classified as rural, which is a nonsense in terms of who is available to respond to any incidents that happen there."

But Richard McNamara, the principal rural fire officer for Marlborough, disagreed, saying that wouldn't get in the way of them doing their job.

"How we interact with each other comes down to command and control, and there are some very clear guidelines put out by FENZ about how that's going to operate.

"Provided we stick to the game plan and are prepared to talk to each other, then it will go well."

The new organisation will be funded in the same way as the Fire Service, mainly from levies paid on property, contents and car insurance.

The restructure is expected to cost about $300 million.

From 1 July 2017, Fire and Emergency New Zealand is replacing the Fire Service and Rural Fire Authorities.

Firefighters respond to a car crash in the 2000s: The new arrangement will do a better job of recognising the non-fire work that firefighters do, FENZ says. Photo: Supplied / Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Adriana WeberEmergency Services Reporter - Radio New Zealand

Posted in NEWS |

‘We have nothing left’: Family fights flames but loses everything in Porirua house fire

The house in Cannons Creek, Porirua, was fully ablaze just after 9am on Thursday.                    RAJ PRATAP

Vasati Lopati tried desperately to beat out the flames leaping up her living room walls.

Her young nieces and nephew, staying for the school holidays, ran for their lives as she fought the fire that was beginning to lick at the ceiling of her home in the Porirua suburb of Cannons Creek on Thursday.

Lopati knew she would lose everything if she could not extinguish the fire, so she stayed inside until the windows began to explode.

Vasati Rosana Lopati has lost everything in the fire at her rented home in Champion St.               RAJ PRATAP

Minutes later she joined her family on the footpath and watched as everything they owned was destroyed.

Husband Muaau was driving his taxi when he heard about the fire. "We've lost everything. We have nothing left now," he said.

Firefighters finally got the upper hand, but only after a second crew was called in to help.
RAJ PRATAP

"It started in the living room but the only things in there were the computer and the TV, and they weren't on."

The couple, originally from Samoa, had lived in the house for four years and did not have contents insurance.

Muaau Lopati said he was grateful a smoke alarm had alerted his family to the fire so they could get out in time.

The house was gutted by the fire, which started in the living room.
RAJ PRATAP

The couple are now appealing for help to replace their lost possessions.

"We have no clothes, no beds and the children have no shoes."

The property's owner, who did not want to be named, said the couple were "lovely, friendly" people who kept to themselves.


He had offered them another home, just up the road from the one that burned, but it was not perfect, he said.

"I was plastering it this morning when the fire happened. It isn't ideal, but at least they have a roof over their heads."

Fire Service central communications shift manager Murray Dunbar said four fire engines were sent to the Champion St property shortly before 9am. The blaze was extinguished about 90 minutes later.

Porirua fire investigator Russell Postlewaight​ believed the fire in the lounge may have been caused by electronics.

"The two ladies in the house were alerted by the working smoke alarm that happened to be at that end of the house, and they managed to escape uninjured.

"The severity of the fire in the lounge was so [strong] that, at that end of the house, it would have been unsurvivable."

At one point, the fire got so bad that the officer in charge had called for a full second team to help.

Firefighters were particularly concerned about the heavy concrete tiles falling from the burning roof above.

About half the ceiling of the old timber house was burned.

 - Stuff  VIRGINIA FALLON AND JARED NICOLL

Posted in NEWS |