Fire alarms are credited with saving the life of a night shift manager who had a lucky escape after falling asleep and his burning cigarette fell to the floor.
The Nelson fire service was called at 1.44am yesterday where a night shift manager at Bridge Street Backpackers was found in bed in a room full of smoke.
Senior fire station officer Steve Shackleton said the building's fire alarms went off and residents were evacuated but firefighters could not initially locate the fire.
"There was a distinctive smell of burning rubber but we couldn't seem to find it."
Fire crew went outside where they saw smoke coming from a locked room.
They could not find any keys or a manager to open the locked room so they had to force it open.
There they found the night shift manager asleep in his bed in a smoke-filled room.
The smoke was so bad that the firefighters had to use breathing apparatus, Mr Shackleton said.
"Twenty minutes later and the poor guy would have been a fatality statistic," he said.
Once the duty manager woke up, he appeared to be shocked and was coughing, he said.
The man was taken outside and attended to by St John's Ambulance staff.
Two messages came from the incident, Mr Shackleton said.
"Firstly, smoke alarms save lives and secondly, do not smoke in bed.
"People need to realise that people lose their sense of smell when they are sleeping."
If they ever did wake up to smoke, it was usually because of irritation rather than smell, he said.
"The guy had a very, very lucky narrow escape."
The Bridge Street Backpackers owner, who declined to be named, said he was pleased that the smoke detectors worked and everyone evacuated safely.
The manager who was on duty would be disciplined for breaking the rules by smoking in his room.
"I am not sure what specific action I am going to take just yet," the owner said. The shift manager obviously dozed off and his cigarette fell onto the carpet, he said.
The man in question was remorseful but he had to be made an example of, he said.
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