Neigh­bour praised

Central Leader - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

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.

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Mem­o­ries de­stroyed: From left: Panama Teli, his mother So­nia, fa­ther Keli and sis­ter Fua’o in their burnt-out house.

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