Woman 'saved' by stray cat
An Ohai woman whose home was engulfed by flames says a cat saved her life.
Dawn Bennie said the grey cat, which began turning up at the property she shared with her husband about a year ago, had always been friendly.
Although the couple did not know where the cat came from, in the past six months she had become quite attached to the animal. When it appeared agitated early on Saturday morning, she wondered what was wrong.
"Usually it would come up to my legs but this time it was freaking out."
Initially when she smelled smoke, she thought it was coming from the coal range. Then she got the feeling the cat did not want her to stay inside the house, Mrs Bennie said.
She then realised the smoke was coming from inside the house.
"All I know is, I owe my life to a cat."
The whole experience had been overwhelming, and she had difficulty sleeping since the fire, Mrs Bennie said.
The couple were insured, she added.
Ohai chief fire officer John Hogg said the fire gutted the property.
The fire was fairly well involved when the Ohai and Nightcaps brigades arrived about 1am, he said.
He went around the house banging on windows while fire crews prepared to attack the blaze, trying to arouse anyone left inside. Fortunately, no-one was, he said.
The cat had played an important part in alerting Mrs Bennie, whose husband was away in Te Anau overnight at the time of the fire, Mr Hogg said.
"The cat was being quite funny. It was sort of trying to exit her out of the house, so it must have had a bit of an instinct."
Mr Hogg praised the homeowner's actions after she realised the house was alight. The house was fitted with working smoke alarms, which she was unable to hear because the door to the hallway was closed and she was partially deaf.
When she realised there was a fire, she closed all the doors, went outside and phoned 111, he said.
"It's pretty devastating for her, especially being there by herself. She got a hell of a fright, but she absolutely did the right thing," Mr Hogg said.
Strong winds in the township that evening proved challenging for the fire crews dealing with the blaze, which destroyed three bedrooms and left the lounge and kitchen areas with extensive smoke and water damage, he said.
A fire safety investigator had looked over the scene later in the day but the investigation was inconclusive. He would return tomorrow to try to establish the cause, Mr Hogg said.
The Southland Times