Neighbour acts after seeing fire

LEE ST FIRE: Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade work to control a house fire on Lee St, Blenheim.
LEE ST FIRE: Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade work to control a house fire on Lee St, Blenheim.

When Taila Riki, 13, saw an orange glow outside her Lee St house last night she thought it could not possibly be a fire.

Fortunately for her neighbours Taila decided to investigate, spotting the flames coming from her neighbour's house and alerting her family who called the fire brigade. Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy fire officer Dion Partridge, said the fire brigade believed the fire was started by a laptop, which overheated while charging on a chair, causing it to catch fire. The fire had the potential to be very dangerous and it was lucky the young family living in the house were not home, he said. There did not appear to be any working smoke alarms in the house, he said.

''Anything that smoulders for a long time, like this, generates a lot of heat. When it got hot enough it blew the window out and created a mini explosive situation, like when you open the door on a log fire if you open it quickly the fire roars up. If the people had come home the opening of the front door could have allowed the oxygen to rush in and it could have been a different story.''

Two fire trucks attended the scene and had the fire under control within half an hour, he said. The lounge where the fire started was the worst damaged, but there was smoke damage to about 80 per cent of the house, he said

Taila said she was on the phone to a friend about 6.50pm when she saw the orange glow reflecting on the fence outside her home.

''I wondered what it was. I thought it can't be a fire, but I went to look and I screamed.''

Her shouts alerted her parents and father, Grant Riki, quickly dialled 111 before running outside to see what he could do to help. Mr Riki grabbed a garden hose to see if he could dampen the flames, but the hose was not working, his wife Kerrie Riki, said. Other neighbours also ran to help, but fearing the fire was a gas fire they decided to leave the situation to the fire brigade, she said.

Mr Partridge said while the suspected cause of the fire was an unlucky scenario, possibly caused by an electrical fault in the laptop, he recommended leaving items like laptops on a hard surface while charging to try and avoid similar situations.

Fairfax Media