A FAMILY whose house burned down is hailing a neighbour as a hero after she alerted them to the blaze.
The Teli family had no idea their Mt Roskill Housing New Zealand house was on fire until Bridgette Tuipulotu, who lives two doors down, saw the smoke and ran to tell them.
Ms Tuipulotu was emptying her vacuum cleaner at about 9pm on April 19 when she smelled smoke and saw it was coming from the Teli’s house.
“I dropped everything I had in my hands and ran,” she says.
Keli and Sonia Teli were already in bed when the fire started in their son Panama’s room.
“We wouldn’t have even known if not for the neighbour,” says Panama.
Ms Tuipulotu says she has known the Telis for years and they are like family.
“They would do the same thing for me.
“The fire department was excellent and was here fast, the ambulance was here fast.
“A fireman said to me if I was seconds later, it could have been much worse.”
Daughter Fua’o Teli says the fire only took 10 to 15 minutes to destroy the house once it took hold.
Most of the family’s possessions were destroyed, including irreplaceable family photos.
“Our family has been in the house for 27 years.
“We all grew up here and we’ve taken in a lot of people.
“When it comes down to it, this house holds so many memories.”
The family says Housing New Zealand has been supportive and has already found them a new house in New Windsor and offered other assistance.
The fire started in Panama’s room after he turned on his television and left it running while he went to his sister’s room.
“I left it for two or three minutes. We didn’t even know it was on fire,” he says.
The smoke alarms, which Fua’o says are sensitive and usually go off when people make toast in the house, failed to activate.
They were alerted by Ms Tuipulotu and Panama opened his bedroom door to discover the flames.
They rushed to get their elderly parents out of the house before calling the Fire Service.
“Our parents were in the room in front and they had no idea either,” says Fua’o.
She says a lot of friends and family have already come through to help them get back on their feet and they are grateful for their love and support.
“Some of them even beat the fire engines.”
The only life lost in the blaze was the family goldfish, which has been buried in the backyard.
Memories destroyed: From left: Panama Teli, his mother Sonia, father Keli and sister Fua’o in their burnt-out house.