Hero dog sounds fire alarm

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - SA­MAN­THA GEE

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.

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

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

‘‘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.

‘‘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 the 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.’’

PHOTO: LEANNE SCH­MIDT/SUPPLIED

A bach was de­stroyed af­ter a house fire in Pen­zance Bay, but it could have been worse had it not been for bor­der col­lie Bar­ney.

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