Fire guts HNZ flats

22:28, Feb 16 2014
Birkenhead Fire
UNRECOGNISABLE: The living room of this one bedroom flat in Birkenhead has been destroyed by fire.
Birkenhead Fire
GUTTED: The inside of this Housing NZ flat in Birkenhead is barely recognisable after fire tore through it last night.
Birkenhead Fire
SEWING MACHINE: The heat produced from a house fire was so intense it melted glass and warped metal.
Birkenhead Fire
FIRE SPREAD: An aggressive fire that started on the bottom level in a block of flats quickly spread to the upstairs and blew out the windows.

Tenants are still shaken after scrambling to rescue each other when their block of flats went up in flames last night.

Fire broke out in a Housing NZ flat on the ground level of eight adjoining apartments in Waratah St, Birkenhead at around 11pm.

Birkenhead Fire station officer Grant Mitcheson says the tenant of the one bedroom home was with a friend in a neighbouring flat when the smoke alarm went off.

She and the other residents went outside to investigate and found the entire downstairs area engulfed in fire and smoke, he says.

A neighbouring tenant says they rushed to make sure everyone had evacuated their flats before calling for help.

"It has really shaken me because I was running around trying to make sure everybody was alright when the windows blew. I realised if it had been a split second later the glass would've sprayed right into me."

The glass windows of both the upstairs and downstairs apartments have blown out and the metal framing is warped from the heat.

A woman living in the flat next to the fire was fast asleep when the blaze began.

"We were banging on her door trying to wake her up but she didn't hear us," the neighbour says.
Fellow tenants had to smash the front window to get her out.

Mr Mitcheson says the entire ground level flat is burnt out and the upstairs residence has around 20 per cent damage.

A fire safety investigator arrived to conduct a scene examination this morning, but says he is yet to determine a cause.

The smoke alarm in the upstairs flat was still beeping almost 12 hours after it was first set off.

Mr Mitcheson says four engines arrived at the scene after receiving multiple calls and reports of people trapped.

He says everyone got out safely and there were no injuries.