Homeless man escapes Southland fire

AMANDA PARKINSON
Last updated 11:14 02/01/2014
NEIL RATLEY/Fairfax NZ

Firefighters at the scene of a fire at an old store in Kennington, Southland, this morning.

Kennington Store Fire
Michelle Grantham/Supplied Zoom
A man watches firefighters attend a fire in the building he is understood to have lived in, in Kennington Rd, Southland.
Southland Times photo
NEIL RATLEY/Fairfax NZ
Firefighters putting out a fire at the old Kennington store this morning.

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A homeless man escaped certain death after getting out of a building he used as shelter when it went up in flames this morning, witnesses say. 

The elderly man was taken to Southland Hospital with smoke-inhalation and was in a serious condition after the old Kennington store building was destroyed by fire.

Fire crews from Invercargill and Wallacetown were called to Kennington Rd at 8.20am.

Invercargill senior station officer Peter Thwaites said the fire could be seen from Invercargill.

When crews arrived they were confronted by flames and plenty of smoke, he said.

The initial reports received from a resident in Kennington Rd, who called in the fire, said an elderly ''homeless man'' used the old store for shelter and was believed to be staying in it when fire engulfed the building.

When the first fire crew arrived, they searched the building for the man. 

However, he had escaped and was with nearby residents, Thwaites said.

Kennington resident Michael Grantham who called 111 said he noticed thick smoke and went to investigate. 

After seeing the flames he called the fire service straight away.

Willie Fraser, another Kennington Rd resident, said the man would most certainly have not made it if he hadn't got out before flames took hold.

''He told us he had just put some hot ashes outside then went back inside when everything went dark,'' Fraser said.

It was a relief to see the man emerge from the building but his hair was singed, he said.

An ambulance communications spokesman said an elderly man was taken to Southland Hospital in a serious condition due to smoke-inhalation.

Firefighters remained at the scene dampening down the ashes.

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- The Southland Times

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