Woman tried to save her memories

20:00, Nov 21 2012
DESTROYED: It took only minutes for an unattended cooking fire to destroy this Bulls unit.

Neighbours had to hold back a Bulls woman after a moment's inattention to a pan of hot fat saw her flat go up in flames.

The woman, in her 70s, had to be treated for smoke inhalation after she ran back into her burning Hammond St home in an attempt to save some of her family photo albums.

Cheryl Archer said her husband David Murphy, who lives next door, saw the curtains catch fire about 3pm on Monday and ran into the flat thinking the woman was inside.

He went straight through the kitchen, where the flames were spreading along the carpet.

He found her outside the other end of the flat talking and unaware of what was happening inside, she said.

As soon as the woman realised what was happening, she ran inside to try to save some of her photo albums, but was led back out again.


Neighbour Pam Bevan and her nephew's wife Rose Hartley found a seat for the woman and said it was a struggle to keep her from going back in. She was desperate to save some of her lifetime memories, she said.

"We were patting her on the back trying to calm her and our hands were black from the soot."

Flames were shooting out the back window of the house, and smoke billowed out the front, Mrs Bevan said.

The woman tried to go back in at least five times, and managed it once, badly singeing her hair before she was forcibly stopped by another neighbour, she said.

Mrs Bevan said the woman had only been living in the flat for a few months having moved over from Australia. She had been waiting on a shipping container with her furniture, and it had only just arrived before the fire destroyed everything.

Rangitikei District Council parks and property officer Christine Godetz, who is also a member of the Hunterville Volunteer Fire Service, was at the woman's house yesterday helping to salvage what they could.

They were hoping to move the woman into an empty flat adjacent to her old one, but they needed the insurance inspectors to come through first so they could get a cleaner in.

She was staying with a neighbour until the new flat could be sorted out.

Ms Godetz said there were smoke alarms operating in the flat at the time of the fire.

Manawatu Standard