Boy escapes Hamilton house blaze unhurt

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 13:14 01/07/2013

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A fire caused by an open woodburner nearly ended in tragedy this morning after a father left for work while his son was still asleep.

Flames ripped through the front half of the house leaving the single-storey building a potential write-off after the Fire Service said a log rolled out of the burner on to the carpet.

The son escaped the blaze after being woken by a passer-by.

Smoke alarms in the house had no batteries.

The Fire Service praised furniture mover Kevin Webb, 26, who saw flames and smoke billowing from the house when he pulled into Blomfield St, in the Hamilton suburb of Dinsdale, about 7.10am to pick up a workmate.

Webb, speaking at the scene with the gutted building still smoking next door, said he leaned on his car horn to wake people up, then ran to the house, not knowing if anyone was inside.

On the deck the flames and smoke were too fierce so Webb hurried down the side of the house and started banging on the windows.

"I heard the young guy wake up and say, 'What? what?'," Webb said.

"I said: 'Your house is on fire'.

"He just said, 'S***' and found a way out."

Webb said the boy, who sounded "quite frightened", told him his father had gone to work earlier. Nobody else was in the house and the boy escaped without injury or smoke inhalation.

Fire safety investigator Dave Jenkins found the cause of the blaze within minutes.

He said the owner appeared to have opened the door to the wood burner in the lounge to give the fire more oxygen and heat.

Unbeknown to him, one of the logs rolled out on to the carpet setting fire to the floor and the nearby dining table.

The house had smoke alarms installed, but no batteries.

Jenkins said it was easily avoidable and a "silly thing to do".

There have been numerous house fires in the region since the cold snap hit and Jenkins said people needed to remain vigilant and make sure home heating appliances were safe and used as directed.

Fire crews from Pukete, Hamilton and Chartwell responded to the blaze.

Pukete station officer Blair Kiely said it took five minutes to get the blaze under control, and praised Webb's actions.

"He's done a good job," Kiely said.

"By banging on the walls he's helped make the situation better for the person inside."

Kiely emphasised the importance of working smoke alarms.

He said they provided an early warning and in this case the sleeping boy would have woken up as soon as the smoke hit the alarm and the damage may have been limited to burnt carpet.

Instead, Kiely said the damage was "extreme" and speculated the house was a "total loss".

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- Waikato Times

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