Fire hits hard but family 'grateful'

SASHA BORISSENKO
Last updated 12:58 28/05/2014
fire on Sovereign street
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ
ON THE SCENE: Residents watch on as firefighters attend a house fire on Sovereign St in Nelson on Monday night.

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A Nelson mother whose home was damaged by fire is distraught she has no insurance and has lost everything, but is thankful to those who've helped her.

Mother-of-three Cathy Strickett was at her Housing New Zealand home in Sovereign St about 5.30pm on Monday when she heard the smoke alarms go off.

She said her daughter, 17-year-old Marguerite Hall, had flicked a cigarette butt out the window but the wind blew it back onto a curtain which then caught fire.

Her daughter screamed and ran out of the room closing the door to the bedroom behind her.

"I freaked out. I could not hear Marguerite screaming but I heard the smoke alarms."

When she ran up the stairs she could see bright red under the door.

There was not enough time for the pair to put out the fire because they could hear the glass shattering and a loud "pop" in less than two minutes.

The pair left the house and Strickett ran to the neighbouring units to warn them that a fire had started.

Ambulance, police and fire crews arrived really quickly, she said.

"I could not believe how fast they were to put out the fire. I can only think what the damage could have been like if they were not so good at what they do."

The pair were taken to Nelson hospital for smoke inhalation and were discharged later that evening.

Close friend Lewis Stanton, better known as Hone Ma Heke, witnessed the fire and organised the pair to stay with his mother, Sylvia, overnight.

"It was such a blessing, she was so kind to us," Strickett said.

Her two teenage boys, who come to visit every second week, lost all their belongings to the fire.

"My heart absolutely broke for them," she said.

She lost all her clothes, her grandmother's paintings and most of the furniture to smoke damage.

"I will not be going back there any time soon, there are too many memories," she said.

She did not have insurance.

"I feel really sad and distraught. It took so many years to get those possessions."

"At the end of the day it is life isn't it.

"These things happen and you just have to start afresh and start again."

Because she admitted liability, Strickett has agreed with Housing NZ to pay for the damage in weekly instalments.

The sum was yet to be determined.

"It was a horrible accident. It should not have happened but Marguerite is really gutted and upset about it," Strickett said.

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Strickett wanted to thank the fire and ambulance crews in particular for being so kind.

She also wanted to thank the Salvation Army for donating clothing, furniture and sheets.

She was also thankful to Housing New Zealand for being so quick to relocate her and her family.

Housing New Zealand area manager Dale Bradley said Housing NZ found Strickett new accommodation in Tahunanui in less than 24 hours.

"Overnight, we were able to fast-track repairs to a property, making it available less than 24 hours after the incident," Bradley said.

- The Nelson Mail

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