Pair risk lives to save cat

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 23/07/2014
 Jason Hill and Pauline the cat
ROBYN EDIE/FAIRFAX NZ
TOGETHER, LUCKILY: Jason Hill and Pauline the cat, who he rescued from their Tweed St home after a fire started in the attached laundry at the back of the house.
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Would you go back to save Pauline?

An Invercargill couple have defended their decision to dash back into their smoke-logged house to rescue their cat.

Yesterday, Chantal Laurie and her partner Jason Hill said with the fire isolated to the attached laundry at the back of the house, there was still an opportunity to go back inside to find their much-loved Pauline.

"Pauline is part of the family; we couldn't just leave her when there was a chance to save her," Laurie said.

But a passer-by, who drove past the property in Tweed St on Monday night and alerted them to the fire, labelled their actions as silly.

"I banged on the door and got the three people out. I rang the brigade and got the brigade there," the man said.

"One of the silly young buggers I got out then went back into the house again to get the bloody cat out. I said 'don't worry about the cat'."

However, the young couple who live in the wooden house said they believed it was safe enough to go back in and save Pauline.

The passer-by, who said he worked for a fire protection company, was left dumbfounded the three people did not listen to his advice to stay out.

"Their actions could have not only put their lives in danger but mine if I had to go in after one of them if they collapsed, and the lives of firefighters. The whole roof could have collapsed down on top of them."

As a result of going back into the house, one of the people suffered from smoke inhalation.

"He was coughing his lungs out," he said.

Hill re-entered the house as Laurie fought the fire - which started after hot ashes were left in a plastic bucket up against a wall at the back of the house - with a garden hose.

"Adrenaline just kicks in and you do what you think is right," Laurie said.

Hill said when he opened the door and headed back inside, the house was full of thick black smoke but he managed to find Pauline in the bedroom. The pair made it out but Hill suffered from smoke inhalation and was treated at the scene by St John officers.

"We wouldn't have gone back in if we didn't think it was possible," they said.

Laurie said the home was owned by her parents but she lived there and had been renovating it. "The firefighters told me that if I hadn't fought the fire with the hose, the house could have gone up in flames."

The damage was limited to the outbuildings, which were going to come down anyway, she said.

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Laurie admitted leaving the hot ashes in a plastic bucket was a silly mistake. All three young people were extremely grateful for the passer-by alerting them to the smoke and fire, she said.

"The smoke had not come into the house when he banged on the door. We could have lost the house, or worse.

"Ashes can stay warm for up to five days, and always, always put them in a metal container. One slip-up is all it takes," she said.

WHAT TO DO IN A FIRE

Crawl low and fast to escape smoke. Get down, get low, get out.

Shut doors behind you to slow the spread of fire

Meet at the planned meeting place.

Once out, stay out - never go back inside.

Phone the fire service, 111, from a safe phone.

Source: New Zealand Fire Service

- The Southland Times

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