'Gut feeling' pays off in neighbour's house fire alert

CAROLINE KING
Last updated 08:05 28/11/2013
Lou and Matt Fyfe
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ
ON TO IT: Lou Fyfe noticed her neighbour's house on fire after 1-year-old Tom woke her early yesterday. Her husband, Matt, with 3-year-old Riley, attempted to rescue her but was unable to enter the house due to smoke.

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When Lou Fyfe looked out the window of her kitchen and saw smoke she had a "gut feeling" something was wrong.

Her intuition was right.

The bedroom of her 80-year-old neighbour Elaine Rapley's Highsted Road home, in Casebrook, was on fire, and she was trapped inside with serious injuries.

"I thought that's weird, it can't be cold enough to have the fire on and went outside to check," the mother-of-two said.

She saw smoke strangely "lingering" over the roof of Rapley's home and realised immediately there was a fire.

Fyfe dashed back inside, yelling to wake her husband, Matt, for help as she rang 111 about 6am.

Matt leapt the fence and began banging on the windows, yelling "get up, get up, there's a fire", desperately trying to wake Rapley.

There was no response.

He managed to break one of the double glazed windows and unlock the front door, cutting his arm in the process.

But the smoke was overpowering, forcing him out.

"It's just like the blackest, blackest smoke you can imagine, and you can't see through a single part of it.

"It's like a wall . . . that was extremely hard, just the frustration of basically being helpless to do anything."

Anxious that the fire may spread, Matt also roused other neighbours. Fortunately, firefighters arrived within minutes and found Rapley near a sliding door.

"She'd made her way to the door, but was at the wrong end," Matt said.

She was taken to Christchurch Hospital, where she remained in a critical condition last night.

Matt credited his wife's attention with saving Rapley's life.

"It was her observation that saved her."

Lou said it was just lucky she was awake that early as their 1-year-old son Tom had woken her up and she decided to get up to make pikelets for 3-year-old son Riley.

Christchurch area senior fire risk management officer Mark Thomas said the cause of the fire was under investigation, but there was not considered suspicious.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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