City house fire believed to be suspicious

Invercargill police are appealing for information after another suspicious house fire in the city.

Firefighters were called to a house in Ythan St just after 3am yesterday, arriving to find the property well ablaze.

The building, a rental property, was extensively damaged by the fire, although the tenants were not home at the time.

While police believe the fire was deliberately lit, Detective Scott McConachie, of Invercargill, said it was too early to speculate on how it was started.

Because of the fire, nearby properties had also been at risk of going up in flames.

Neighbour Amanda Pope and her four children were asleep in bed, only metres from the flames, as fire engines arrived.

Surprisingly, the family's pet dogs remained calm throughout the ordeal, and the first the family knew about the danger was when a stranger arrived to warn them of the fire, she said.

"A man banged on the door and woke me up and and said, there's a fire next door.

"When I opened the door, I had no idea what was going on."

The fire was so close to Ms Pope's house that some of the spouting had melted, and she rushed to keep her children safe.

"I just got my kids and put them in a spot so I knew where they were. The fire brigade guy just came here and said, ‘right, just get ready to leave'."

Firefighters managed to control the fire before the family was forced to evacuate, but Ms Pope said the experience had been frightening.

"We're just lucky to have each other, really. It was pretty scary. I'm just worried the person's going to come back for some more."

Invercargill fire investigator Mike Cahill inspected the property yesterday and said he believed the fire was started inside the house.

It was not thought to be linked to other suspicious fires in Invercargill, he said.

This month, firefighters attended a couch fire on the corner of Ness and Teviot streets and a suspicious fire outside a house on the corner of Elles Rd and Bowmont St, three hours apart.

In May, Southland Girls' High School and Newfield Park School were set alight within 24 hours of each other.

Anyone who had witnessed people acting suspiciously in the Ythan St area should contact Invercargill police on (03) 211 0400 or phone Crime Stoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

The Southland Times