Heroes save elderly couple from fire
Two Christchurch builders risked their lives, as windows shattered and a house filled with smoke, to rescue an elderly couple from a fire.
The fire, at about 3pm on July 31, destroyed the Bewdley St home that 90-year-old Victor Hewitt and his wife, Pearl, 85, had lived in for most of their lives.
Builders Greg Maw and Dylan Paterson were driving back to work after dropping off a rented DVD when they noticed smoke coming out of a roof.
By the time they ''slammed on the anchors'' and ran to the house, flames were already shooting at least two metres above the roof, Maw said.
''There was no thinking involved. We didn't have a chance to think,'' he said.
Paterson saw Pearl Hewitt on the other side of the front door and quickly pulled her to the porch.
He then rushed inside and found her husband frantically trying to call emergency services from the middle of the house.
''You could hear windows shattering; the smoke was in your face. It got pretty exciting there for a moment,'' he said.
He helped Victor Hewitt outside before he and Maw took the couple across the road to a neighbouring house, aided by another passerby.
''It took them a while to calm down. They were both in hysterics,'' Paterson said.
Maw said the elderly couple ''would be toast'' if he and Paterson had not stopped, but claimed they were not heroes.
''The people who do this every day are the heroes,'' he said.
''We're just a couple of lucky guys in the right place. We're just glad that we were here and we could help a very lovely old couple.''
The fire, which was caused by unattended cooking, destroyed the couple's uninsured house and all of their possessions.
''We just hope, because they weren't insured, that they get the help they need. It's pretty gutting,'' Maw said.
Victor Hewitt told The Star newspaper he suffered burns while trying to pour a bucket of water on the fire.
He believed he and his wife would not have escaped the fire if Maw and Paterson had not stopped.
"They got us out. Without those two you'd be looking at two deaths."
The Fire Service planned to open the burnt-out home to the public later this month.
Senior fire risk management officer Mark Thomas said the open day aimed to show people what could happen when they left cooking unattended.
''A third of all fires happen in the kitchen. In Christchurch we would get four or five a week, usually not to that extent, but probably in one of those cases we'd have to treat someone for smoke inhalation.''
Thomas said the elderly couple were lucky to escape their burning home.
The Bewdley St house had softwood panels on the ceiling, which were popular in the 1950s and 60s, but highly flammable.
''It burns very easily. There wasn't an awful lot of time for [the couple] to get out because the fire spread so quickly,'' Thomas said.
The open home would be held on August 16 at 25 Bewdley St between 9am and 12pm.
- The Press