NO smoke alarms and no insurance have left a young Gisborne family devastated but lucky to be alive after fire gutted their home.
The 21-year-old parents and their two children are left with only what they were wearing after their Rata Street home was destroyed by fire in the early hours of this morning.
The fire service said it was “moments from a fatality”.
The father suffered burns to his face, neck and hands as he rescued his four-year-old daughter, who was asleep in the lounge, while the mother grabbed their one-year-old son and ran outside.
This morning the young mother said the loss of everything was hard to get their heads around but they were counting their blessing to be alive.
Neighbours called the fire service just before 1am but by the time appliances arrived less than seven minutes later, the house was fully alight.
The mother said she woke up to a dark house but could see smoke and the light reflecting from the fire in the lounge.
“We never thought something like that would happen and then it happened. Everything . . . just gone.
“Someone must have been looking out for us. Last night when it happened, we didn’t really care because we were alive — but now that we’ve had a rest, it has started to sink in and kick us fairly hard.
“We’ve got to start all over again. Our kids have no clothes. For my family to be in something like that — it was scary.”
Senior Fire Safety Officer Derek Goodwin said the family were incredibly lucky to be alive.
It is believed the fire started after an A-frame clothes dryer was left less than a metre away from an open fire with no fire guard on it.
“It was either radiated heat from the fire against the clothes, or it was a spark,” he said.
He reiterated the importance of working smoke alarms in a home, having an escape route and making sure the “metre heater” rule was always followed.
Fire safety officer Derek Goodwin said people should be very careful when drying things in front of fires or hot appliances and make sure they were not too close.
“They were obviously using the fire for heating and drying last night, and they were so very lucky. If you call this lucky . . . they were lucky.”
The home is situated at the end of a Te Hapara cul-de-sac.
A neighbour who lives two doors down said the heat from the fire woke her up.
“That was what alerted me. I woke up because I was too hot. It was scary. That’s the first time I have ever seen a fire like that.”
Another neighbour said by the time she woke up, the house was fully ablaze.
“The young lady from the house came over and used our phone, so we gave her baby a couple of blankets and put a coat over her. “
It is the third house fire in Gisborne in less than six weeks where families have been described as “very lucky” to escape alive.
Mr Goodwin said it was mind-blowing that 20 people’s lives could have been lost in such a short space of time.
“We’ve seen three families now come very close to losing not just everything they own but their lives as well.
“We are seeing a spike in these fires and I think it’s mainly because of the time of the year where everyone is cold and just trying to keep warm, trying to dry things because you can’t get outside or because it’s too expensive to have a clothes dryer.”
Fire alarms were as important as breathing in and out to stay alive, he said. The best landlords for fitting and monitoring smoke alarms were Housing New Zealand, who made sure all their homes had alarms and checked them every six months, he said.
■ Anyone who wishes to help can contact the family, who are staying with relatives, on 862 5035.