The female resident of an old wooden New Plymouth house panicked when she was unable to put out a fire taking hold on the outside wall of her home.
The scantily clad woman rushed into the back of nearby cafe, Baked on Carrington, about 10am yesterday, yelling at the owner, "Karen, my house is on fire, my house is on fire".
Cafe owner Karen Boyd said staff calmed the distraught woman, asking her whether she had called the fire brigade and had got her dog out of her flat.
When she said she had done neither, cafe staff rang 111 on her behalf and the woman returned to save her dog.
New Plymouth firefighters arrived at the Carrington St house behind the shopping centre, ripping off the cladding and extinguishing the fire in the wall.
The woman, who asked not to be named, told the Taranaki Daily News she threw a cigarette out of her window and a fire took hold in rubbish stored alongside the outside wall. She tried to put the fire out but by then it had taken hold.
Senior Station Officer Ian Drewery confirmed the discarded cigarette set fire to rubbish and the fire then spread to the cladding of the house and caught on to the base of the dry wall and internal framing.
"We could well have had four tenants that could have been homeless," he said.
There were several messages to be learned from the fire.
Smokers should ensure cigarettes are safely put out.
"People who are smoking generate lots of property fires," Mr Drewery said.
It was also important to store rubbish away from the side of houses and recycled - a timely message when discarded Christmas paper and cardboard would soon be in evidence in homes.
And if there was a fire, occupants should shut doors behind them, "get out and stay out".
He advised the occupant to buy fire alarms and the firefighters would return to install them.
- Taranaki Daily News
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