Man escapes house fire started by neighbours

22:12, Mar 20 2014

A Marton family could be charged after their illegal urban rubbish fire set a sleeping neighbour's house alight this morning.

The man, who was retired and thought to be in his 60s, escaped as fire spread through the eaves of his Fergusson St home about 2am when he was woken by two smoke alarms, Marton chief fire officer Paul Whitehead said.

''It just goes to prove that working smoke alarms do save lives,'' Mr Whitehead said.

Police and fire investigators had concluded that the fire was caused by a rubbish fire that the family next door had started about two metres from the neighbour's house yesterday.

''They were next to the garden shed and although they weren't aware of it, it had gone under the garden shed and then spread to a pile of firewood up against the fence,'' Mr Whitehead said.

''It's basically re-ignited at about 2am and set the eaves of the house on fire and then spread inside the house.''


Firefighters managed to contain the fire to one room, but because all doors were open in the house, all the rooms had suffered some smoke damage, Mr Whitehead said.

The Pacific Island family had admitted lighting the fire, but were unaware it was illegal to do so.

Police were deciding whether to lay charges.

The Marton fire service, in conjunction with the Whanganui fire service, was already planning a fire safety programme for Pacific Islanders in Marton before this morning's blaze.

''We were going to go into their church and give them a bit of education around things like smoke alarms.

''I'd say we will definitely be doing that now.''

Mr Whitehead said there was a number of Pacific Island families being brought into the country by Rangitikei employers, and those employers needed to be on board with any fire safety campaign.

The house fire is the second in Marton involving a Pacific Island family in two weeks. 

In the first, Psa Silao and his family escaped through a window of their Lower High St home on Sunday March 9, after an electrical fault set the porch and then the house on fire about 5am.

In that case the family did not have working smoke alarms and were saved by their neighbours' poodle-cross Tydus after his incessant barking roused his owner Kathryn Collins, who woke son Kerry Walker, who roused the sleeping family.

Manawatu Standard