Quick thinking Neighbourly rescue
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 her Pakuranga Heights home.
Mrs 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 nurse training kicked in and she emersed herself in a cold bath.
Mr Hawea saw black smoke coming from the house at about 6pm on Monday.
The smouldering clothes had landed on a rubber house mat.
"I left it for about a minute and it progressively started getting bigger," Mr Hawea says.
The concerned builder 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," Mr Hawea says.
"I just told her she had to get out right now and dragged her outside."
Mr Hawea's wife got Mrs Nahi a robe and gave her a cold shower until an ambulance arrived, while Mr Hawea jumped a fence to find the fire had taken hold on the backdoor step.
He used the garden hose to extinguish knee-high flames that Howick fire station officer Graham Grace says were minutes away from causing a serious blaze.
It was lucky the rubber mat created so much black smoke and Mr Hawea investigated otherwise "the police could have been going to a situation later on", Mr Grace says.
Mr Hawea is a hero in the fireman's eyes, and would make a good recruit for the service.
"He did all the right things," Mr Grace says.
"I think he deserves a bit of an accolade, you know, when neighbours help elderly people."
Mrs Nahi's son, Hata, is grateful to Mr Hawea and proud of his mum's courage.
"I think she did well, but also our neighbour did well to put out the fire," he says.
"The house still caught fire, but at least she kept it to the outside.
"Putting herself in the bath would have cooled her legs down so her burns aren't as bad as they would have been."
Mr Nahi says 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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