Arson destroys homeowner's project

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 28/12/2013
Edward Blackburn

TRYING TO REMAIN POSITIVE: Homeowner Edward Blackburn at his damaged property, which was torched by an arsonist on Christmas Day.

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A Southland man is trying to remain positive after his six-year renovation project fell victim to a Christmas Day arsonist.

Invercargill firefighters were called to two suspicious house fires on Christmas Day, with a property in Crinan St flaring up only hours after firefighters rushed to a family home in Tay St which had been torched.

Otautau man Edward Blackburn, a co-owner of the Crinan St house, said he and his wife had put six years' work into renovating it and he estimated the fire damage would probably set the project back another five.

"My wife put the floor in there and now she's got to do it again.

"We'll get it liveable again within five years, I'd say."

Despite the setback, he was trying to remain positive and move forward.

"At the end of the day, you can't dwell on it. You've just got to deal with it. You've got to smile about things - what's the point in crying about it?"

It was about 8.30pm on Christmas Day when Mr Blackburn received a phone call telling him the house was ablaze.

As he rushed into Invercargill, all he could think about was the safety of the house's occupant, who he believed could be snoozing after a few Christmas drinks.

"I'm just glad he wasn't asleep on the couch. That's the one thing I was thinking about."

Luckily, the occupant was not at home at the time, he said.

Mr Blackburn said he had no idea who torched the bedroom of his house.

But he believed whoever it was had been "dumb", as they had closed the door after setting the room alight, limiting the spread of the damage. Despite this, the roof joist, the bedroom wall gib board and the floor had all been burnt.

In the days since the fire, Mr Blackburn had removed the damaged gib board off the walls and was now facing the time-consuming tasks of rewiring the house, replacing the floor and fixing the bedroom.

Yesterday, Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Bowman, of Invercargill CIB, said police were continuing with the arson inquiries, but still wished to hear from anyone who had any information.

There was no evidence to indicate the two house fires were connected at this stage, he said.

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