Little boy's alert saves family

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 23/01/2014
Empty Shell

EMPTY SHELL: Firefighters assess the damage to the Otahuhu home which was destroyed by flames.

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A young boy's quick thinking can be thanked for saving his family from a blaze that destroyed their home.

The 8-year-old alerted his mother and two pre-teen sisters to the fire at their Otahuhu house at about 1pm on Monday, Papatoetoe Fire Station senior station officer Terry Jenner says.

"He yelled ‘fire, fire, fire' which was really good. It's exactly what we teach in our schools programme."

Everyone inside the house escaped the flames unhurt.

The mother was assessed for smoke inhalation after she tried to re-enter the burning building to find one of her daughters who was later found outside.

She did not require hospital treatment.

Neighbour Hayley Jensen-Fraser says the flames were unbelievably fast.

"Within a minute you could hear the windows cracking. It was pretty scary," she says.

Neighbour Taney Tuiti battled the blaze with her garden hose until the Fire Service arrived.

Twelve firefighters were needed to extinguish the flames and a fire truck remained at the scene until about 6pm.

Miss Tuiti says it's devastating to see the damage to the house which is still standing but has been completely gutted by the flames.

"The family's lost everything. The kids have lost all their Christmas gifts and everything," she says.

"It's just lucky they got out.

"You can replace things but you can't replace human lives," she says.

The next few weeks and months will be rough for the family but other residents in the street will rally around to help them rebuild their lives, she says.

"We're all just like a big family down here. We look after each other."

Mr Jenner says the fire was started by a child playing with matches underneath a bed.

It's unclear whether the house was fitted with smoke alarms because "every ceiling in the house is down on the floor".

The incident highlights the importance of ensuring matches and lighters are always kept out of reach of children, a police spokesperson says.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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