Woman dead after Chch house fire

23:27, Jul 19 2012
Clent Lane fatal
AFTERMATH: The blaze in this Clent Lane council flat was "unsurvivable".

A Clent Ln resident bashed open the door of a burning flat in an attempt to save her elderly neighbour, only to find it was too late.

The resident, who wanted to be known only as Helen, said last night she woke to the sound of voices before realising her neighbour's unit was "engulfed" in flames.

"My first thought was there's a fight going on. I went out and looked around the corner. I thought, 'there's a new light display' and then realised it was a fire."

Helen said her instincts then took over.

"I don't even know what I was thinking. I just didn't think. I started pounding on the doors. I think it was adrenaline - the double doors just flew open."

The fire began to intensify and windows exploded, she said. She found her neighbour on the lounge floor surrounded by flames, but it was too late.


Later, she recalled her neighbour, who had lived in the complex for more than 14 years, as a quiet, friendly woman, who always had a smile on her face.

"Everybody knew her. Nobody is a stranger here. She was a beautiful old lady who loved to walk. She would walk to Westfield [Shopping Centre] with her walking stick. But she'd been having some trouble walking. Her family would come and take her shopping."

It is understood she had been ill recently.

However, just yesterday she had walked down the lane saying "what a beautiful day", Helen said.

Helen said residents believed their neighbour, who was quite deaf, may not have even heard the smoke alarm, which they say did go off.

She said the ambulance made it down the lane, but the fire engines could not fit because of parked vehicles.

"The Fire Service were running down pounding on doors waking people up to move their cars."

Helen was told the garden on the lane was likely to be removed as a result to make it more accessible for emergency services.


Assistant Area Commander Dave Berry said it was understood the woman was in her 80s.

Fire crews were called to the property in Clent Ln about 10.30pm to find the unit well alight.

The blaze, which was described as "unsurvivable", was put out within minutes but fire crew remained at the scene for about four hours.

The unit was part of a block of four, but the neighbouring flats were protected from the spread of fire by fire walls, he said.

A fire safety officer was examining the scene today to determine the cause of the fire, Berry said.

Detective Sergeant Craig Farrant confirmed a body was found inside the home but police could not comment on the victim's identity.

A St John ambulance spokesman said several people were treated at the scene, but no-one was taken to hospital.

The Press