Wellington fire 'the scariest thing I've ever seen'

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2013
Tane Downes and Deborah Osborne
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

'SCARY' NIGHT: Tane Downes and Deborah Osborne with baby David. The couple were shocked at the speed of the fire that gutted their home.

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A Wellington man's quick thinking and response probably saved a group of sleeping residents from serious injury, or even death, when fire ripped through their house.

Firefighters were called to the fire in Happy Valley Rd, next to mini golf venue Carlucci Land, about 1.30am yesterday, to find the house well alight.

Tane Downes and his partner, Deborah Osborne, were in bed after having friends around to watch the cricket match between the Black Caps and England on Saturday night.

Luckily for them, about five people were still awake in the house when the fire started.

Mr Downes estimated it took only 40 seconds from when the people who were awake smelled smoke to the entire house being engulfed in flames. "It's insane bro, it's the scariest thing I've ever seen."

He said his brother kicked in the door of their bedroom and told them to grab their 10-month-old son, David, and get out of the house.

His brother then made sure three other sleeping people got out of the house quickly, including a woman who was in the room where the fire started. "She was asleep in that room, he went in and grabbed her . . . he's a hero," Mr Downes said.

The woman was taken to Wellington Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation. She was still in hospital yesterday.

The owner of the house had insurance, but Mr Downes and Ms Osborne did not have contents insurance so had lost all their possessions.

"We've lost everything, but not each other and that's the most important thing. I was gutted all night over my gear but once it sinks in and the [fire] inspector tells you ‘how the hell did you all get out?', then I'm thankful."

A neighbour said it was a miracle the fire did not spread to the bush belt behind the house, which would have "set the entire valley alight".

Luckily the wind was blowing in the opposite direction and fire fighters did an amazing job in containing the fire to the house, Mr Downes said.

Senior station officer Dave Campbell said the occupants had been extremely lucky to escape with their lives after the fire spread so quickly.

"From our point of view we're very thankful that everyone got out alive. It illustrates how fast a fire can spread."

The group had been lucky some people were awake, but working smoke alarms would have done the same job, he said.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated, but it was believed to have been electrical.

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- The Dominion Post

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