Two squeegee bandits sleeping rough under a building in New Plymouth had a close call this morning after an arsonist set fire to it, police say.
Fortunately a woman - unaware there were people at risk nearby - spotted the fire at the base of a large supporting pole under The Mill about 7.40am and alerted the Fire Brigade.
Firefighters extinguished the fire before it took hold and alerted police it was deliberately lit.
Sergeant Ross Wright said police were aware window washers sometimes slept underneath the building.
When they checked they found two men, whom they knew, sound asleep and totally oblivious that their lives had been at risk just moments before.
''We found two guys out to it. They didn't even wake up to the Fire Brigade arriving. They would be feeling fairly lucky by now.
''Someone's obviously gathered debris and put it against this massive pole and set it alight.''
If the fire had taken hold the window washers, who were towards the back of the bottom of the building, would have been trapped, Mr Wright said.
''They could have suffered serious harm if the fire had gone up.''
To add insult to injury, one of the pair had his white Nike high-topped shoes stolen while he slept - possibly by the same person who lit the fire, Mr Wright said.
Police have now trespassed the two window washers from the building and The Mill owner Chris Simkin intended to block off the area, Mr Wright said.
''We don't want people sleeping under buildings.''
Anyone who witnessed people acting suspiciously in the area is asked to contact Constable Kirk Sanger at the New Plymouth Police Station.
One possible suspect is another window washer aged about 35 with mousey brown hair, seen walking up Gover St shortly afterwards with an angry expression on his face.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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