Smoke alarms made the difference between life and death for four holidaymakers after the bach they were staying in burned to the ground early Sunday morning.
Picton chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said that if the one-room bach at Waterfall Bay in Queen Charlotte Sound had been without a smoke alarm the outcome would have been very different.
The two couples, believed to be from Picton and Wellington, staying at the family-owned bach were very lucky, he said. They suffered some smoke inhalation but were not injured.
"It was a 1960s, really traditional one-room bach. Two of them were staying in it and two were in a tent. If it hadn't been for the smoke alarm there is almost no doubt the two in the bach would have been killed," Mr Wytenburg said.
The call for help came in from the holidaymakers at 3.45am with Mr Wytenburg dispatching the Kenepuru Fire Party to the scene as they were closest. They were later joined by fire crews from Picton and Linkwater.
Mr Wytenburg said the fire was fully involved when the first crew arrived and the building could not be saved. It was not known until first light that there was a new home about 150 metres from the blaze, he added.
"The Kenepuru Fire Party need to get a huge pat on the back . . . it could have been a lot worse."
He said the two couples were badly shaken.
The cause of the fire is not yet known, but is not being treated as suspicious.
- The Marlborough Express