'Hero' saves neighbour from fire
Flames take hold as woman treats burnsSIMON SMITH
Seventy-nine-year-old Johanna Nahi was home alone when she got out of the bath to find her burly neighbour in the bedroom.
Tamati Hawea had rushed to help after seeing smoke coming from the Pakuranga Heights home on Monday evening.
Nahi's track pants had caught fire minutes earlier while she was lighting the gas heater.
She got them off and threw them outside but was severely burned down the length of her thigh. Her training as a nurse then kicked in and she immersed herself in a cold bath.
Hawea saw black smoke coming from the house and saw that the smouldering clothes had landed on a rubber house mat.
''I left it for about a minute and it progressively started getting bigger,'' Hawea said.
He then called 111, grabbed a sledgehammer from his ute and headed over - banging on the front door to no answer.
''I just about threw my sledgehammer at it, but luckily I just turned the door handle and it opened.''
There was smoke in the house and he ran around shouting to see if anyone was home.
''I ran into one of the bedrooms and that's when she stumbled out of the bathroom. She was obviously a bit upset seeing me in her house.
''I just told her she had to get out right now and dragged her outside.''
Hawea's wife got the elderly woman a robe and gave her a cold shower until an ambulance arrived, while he jumped a fence to find the fire had taken hold on the back doorstep.
He used the garden hose to extinguish knee-high flames that were minutes away from causing a serious blaze.
Howick fire station officer Graham Grace said Hawea was a hero and would make a good recruit for the service.
''He did all the right things. I think he deserves a bit of an accolade, you know, when neighbours help elderly people.''
Nahi's son Hata is grateful to Hawea and proud of his mother's courage.
''I think she did well, but also our neighbour did well to put out the fire. The house still caught fire, but at least she kept it to the outside.
Hata said it could easily have gone bad.
''Mum came out of the bathroom because she had Tamati running around.
''Otherwise she might have stayed in the bathroom way too long and the fire would have been up and around.''
- © Fairfax NZ News
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