Mother, son flee burning house
A Te Awamutu mother and son were lucky to be standing after a fire early today tore through the home they were renting this morning.
The smell of charcoal hung in the air and blackened, broken glass lay on the grass outside the back of the house.
Standing in his dressing gown, barefoot outside the gutted home, tenant Darren Oulton said he was asleep in bed when the fire began about 5am.
"I think I heard it, probably, it woke me up," Oulton said, his hands blackened from ash.
"I woke up, got the mother out, that was it."
He and his mother had spent the morning with a neighbour, but said he had "no idea" where the pair would be staying tonight.
Oulton said the house, which he'd lived in for more than 10 years, contained things of sentimental value but he knew not to grab anything when the house was alight.
"I had that drummed into me when I was little, get down, get out."
Oulton said he normally lived in the rental with his mother and brother, but he and his mother were the only people home when the fire happened.
Fire safety investigator Cameron Grylls was an the scene, but said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire.
"We haven't started too much of the investigation yet.
"We're not sure where the fire started specifically but it's definitely based around the back half of the house which is around the kitchen area and wash house."
Two appliances from Te Awamutu attended.
"From what I understand they were concerned there was still someone inside when they got here so they asked for backup, but I don't know if that was from Otorohanga or Hamilton or if they actually got here."
Grylls said the fire spread to the ceiling and estimated fire men spent up to 45 minutes getting the blaze under control.
"There's not too much left as far as roofs and ceilings go."
Oulton said the fire service was there "within minutes of us getting out".
There were no smoke alarms in the house. Grylls said the fire served as yet another cautionary tale.
"We recommend the use of smoke alarms in bedroom areas, bit of a timely reminder people have working smoke alarms in their house."
A nearby resident said she saw a "huge white cloud" rising up from the house at 5am.
"I thought it was fog for a while. As I was watching, two fire engines arrived. But there was this white, white smoke."