Firefighters praise observant neighbour

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 05/07/2012
Rachel Bryce
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
HOUSE SAVED: Rachel Bryce and her son Jack Harding, 4, after Ms Bryce's quick thinking prevented her neighbour's house in Wallacetown from going up in flames.

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Firefighters have praised the quick actions of a Wallacetown woman that saved her neighbour's home from going up in flames.

On Tuesday night Rachel Bryce noticed smoke coming from the roof of her neighbour's home as she moved her car away from the front of her garage.

The outside light was on and it was cold, so she assumed it was just steam but on closer inspection she saw that it was smoke and rang the fire brigade.

Her neighbours were on holiday but she knew that people were house sitting, so she banged on the door to get their attention.

When nobody answered she ran next door to the other neighbour, Dave Snodgrass and woke him up to help. "Instead of second guessing myself, I got a second opinion. I also knew that I needed some help to get the people out from the second floor before the fire service arrived," she said.

"We were both banging on the door but nobody answered, so we had to break in to get the house sitters, who were watching a movie," Ms Bryce said.

The house was long and the house sitters did not realise the banging was the front door, she said.

Ms Bryce and Mr Snodgrass noticed a hot lamp had fallen and was smouldering on the wood.

"The fire service arrived just in time, as flames started to burn," she said.

Ms Bryce said she was good friends with her neighbours and everybody in the small community looked out for one another.

"I think I was just in the right place at the right time. If I didn't, it would have been my partner that noticed it when he came home and who knows, it could have been well and truly alight," she said.

Wallacetown deputy chief fire officer Chris Hughes, who attended the fire, said it was fortunate that Ms Bryce was still up at 10pm. He said it was good that neighbours in the community were looking out for one another.

"It was fortunate that she was up, otherwise it could have been a very different story," he said.

Her actions had saved the home, which was left with only minor charring, he said.

New Zealand Fire Service Southland area manager Bruce Stubbs said looking out for neighbours was all part of neighbourhood support, which police and the fire service promoted.

"If you know your next door neighbour is away, keep an eye on their home," he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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