Border collie alerts owner to house fire in Marlborough Sounds

Penzance Bay resident Leanne Schmidt with her dog Barney.
Leanne Schmidt

Penzance Bay resident Leanne Schmidt with her dog Barney.

The actions of a quick-thinking dog helped to stop a house fire from spreading to other properties in Penzance Bay in the Marlborough Sounds. 

Nine-year-old border collie Barney alerted his owner Leanne Schmidt to the fire in the rural community during the early hours of Friday morning.

Schmidt said Barney's whining and scratching at the door roused her from sleep around 1am.

A bach was completely destroyed after a house fire in Penzance Bay.
Leanne Schmidt

A bach was completely destroyed after a house fire in Penzance Bay.

She said Barney slept outside and was an anxious dog, but usually would only scratch at her door during a thunderstorm. 

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"He has probably got the reputation of being a bit of a happy idiot.

Barney the border collie overlooking Penzance Bay. Barney woke his owner up in the middle of the night and alerted her ...
Leanne Schmidt

Barney the border collie overlooking Penzance Bay. Barney woke his owner up in the middle of the night and alerted her to a nearby fire.

"But he was in full panic mode, he was quite convinced he was in mortal danger."

She initially thought she must have missed a thunderstorm. But when she got out of bed, she smelt the smoke in the air and noticed a red glow in the sky.

It soon became clear that a house about 250 metres away was on fire. 

She called 111 and began to call other residents to alert them to the fire in the hope they could stop it from spreading. People on neighbouring properties used hoses to try and get the fire under control. 

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"The house was gone by that stage, it was just a pile of rubble burning."

She said the nearest fire station was the Rai Valley Volunteer Brigade which was 45 minutes away by car. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman Riwai Grace said the Rai Valley and Havelock Volunteer Fire Brigades were called out to the fire at 1am but the house was "totally flattened" when they arrived.

"They used a pump to get water from the sea to help extinguish what was left of the blaze, they were a bit worried about it getting into scrub and vegetation around the area."

Between Penzance Bay and the adjacent Tuna Bay there were about 70 houses. Schmidt had lived in bay for most of her life and said it was the first time she knew of a house burning down. 

She said it was sad news for the family who had lost their home and a "bit of a wake up call" for the small community leading into fire season. 

Schmidt said if Barney hadn't woken her up, the fire could have spread to neighbouring properties.

"If that happened in summer...there are so many trees and it is so dry, we could only hope to be warned in enough time to get out really."

Schmidt described Barney as a "chronic glutton" with a penchant for Tim Tams and pinching steak off the barbecue.

"He is a pedigree border collie but he should have been born a labrador, he has got some really bad habits with food."

She was thankful that Barney had alerted her to the fire. 

"I'm impressed, he is normally absolutely useless and does nothing but eat, he's finally found his calling. 

"I've asked him for more warning next time."

 - Stuff

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