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Pre-christmas roast turns into nightmare

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 12:47 20/12/2012

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A pre-Christmas roast morphed into a nightmare present for a Raglan man on Wednesday night.

The fire that tore through his two-storey house destroyed all his belongings, including the Christmas tree and his children's yet-to-be-wrapped gifts.

The father of two, who asked not to be named, said he was given some beef on Tuesday and early Wednesday night he decided to cook a roast on a gas hob set up on his expansive, upper-level deck.

He had slow roasted meat in the cooker before without a problem, so put it on low heat and went into Raglan to have a "Christmas beer" with a mate.

When he got back his house was destroyed.

"I'm pretty gutted," he said while sifting through what remained of his photographs, negatives and belongings.

"Thank God the kids weren't here sleeping."

The man said he bought a "decent" gas hob because he knew they could be dodgy.

He thought it was safe.

"What do you do? I've got a tent. I might have to stick that up. I'll have to find somewhere to stay for a while and hope like hell I've got insurance."

Fire safety officer Kevin Holmes confirmed the unattended gas hob was to blame. The fire damage was so hot that it burnt through the roasting dish and left only the piles on the deck's northern side to be salvaged.

With the outdoor cooking and drinking season upon us Mr Holmes said when people are cooking they should remember the old adage - "Keep looking when you're cooking".

"It's not only on stoves - if you're cooking anything somebody's got to be there to keep an eye on it."

It was Raglan resident and wildlife photographer Trevor Penfold who first saw the blaze.

He was driving home from Hamilton with his wife and daughter when he noticed "a bit of a glow in the sky above the trees".

Mr Penfold, a former fireman in the UK, decided to investigate.

"When we found the house it was well ablaze and there was nobody around that we could see," he said.

"I went around the house shouting to see if anyone was around but couldn't hear anyone. I didn't think there was anyone inside but the way the dog was looking at the house I thought, 'Oh God, there's someone in there'. By the time I got there, to be honest, they would have already been dead."

Mr Penfold put the dog in his car and kept calling.

"By then the flames were upstairs and windows were starting to smash."

He noticed two "big gas bottles" against the house so he disconnected each one and dragged them away so they didn't explode.

Mr Penfold also moved two vehicles that were parked close to the building.

By then another passerby had called the Fire Service from up the road where there was cellphone reception.

It took firefighters on six fire engines from as far away as Hamilton to get the fire under control.

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- Waikato

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