Fire rips through Te Aroha home
A woman woke to the sound of smashing glass overnight before opening her bedroom door to a wall of black smoke.
The smoke alarms were working but because of their location they didn't sound immediately.
The woman rushed to rouse three other people inside and they all escaped with just the clothes on their backs at 3.30am, fire investigator Kevin Holmes said outside the burnt-out Te Aroha home on Sunday.
The occupants, sleepy but uninjured, watched from the roadside as flames tore through the white weatherboard house on Stirling St.
It was one of five fires in the Waikato over the weekend.
On Friday night, the old model railway station at Hamilton Domain was destroyed in a suspicious fire and in the early hours of Saturday morning Waikato firefighters attended a bach blaze in Matamata.
Holmes believed the Te Aroha house fire started in the kitchen.
Although there were working smoke alarms, Holmes said they were not where they should have been.
"The alarms were in the hallway and the fire hadn't quite reached where the alarms were so it was lucky an occupant woke up," he said.
"Ideally, there should have been some in the lounge room.
"People should never underestimate the speed of fire. It can become [fatal] in less than five minutes.
"It's important we have working smoke alarms, we need that early warning to be able to get out."
Stirling St resident John Rudge said a young couple had lived in the house for about six years.
He woke to the sound of an explosion on Sunday and saw the house's verandah on fire.
He dialed 111. He and the neighbours made sure the occupants and two dogs made it out safe.
"It didn't take long ... within minutes, well and truly before the fire brigade had got here, that whole house was engulfed in flames.
"There were flames coming out of all the windows and it was quite frightening because we were concerned about the neighbours' houses as well."
The roof of the house collapsed and the floor of the lounge was gone, which made Holmes' job a bit tricky.
He used stepping plates and put them across the floor joists to make his way around the home.
Chief fire officer for the Te Aroha Volunteer Fire Brigade, Roger Clark, said six fire trucks were called to the fire around 3.30am.