Two fam­i­lies es­cape home-desto­ry­ing fires

South Waikato News - - Your Place, Your Paper - PHILLIPA YALDEN and FRANCES FER­GU­SON

A South Waikato fam­ily man­aged to es­cape an in­ferno via a side door as fire ex­ploded through the win­dows of their home.

More than four hours was spent ex­tin­guish­ing a blaze that ripped through the Toko­roa home overnight on Tues­day last week af­ter a tea light left burn­ing in a child’s room sparked the fire. The house-de­stroy­ing fire was the first of three that hap­pened in Toko­roa in the space of one week.

Michelle Popata said she only knew some­thing was wrong when she was wo­ken-up by her daugh­ter about 10.20pm.

Within 20 sec­onds the fam­ily home was up in flames.

‘‘We were asleep and by the time we got out the flames were down the hall­way where my other chil­dren’s room is so while we were go­ing through the flames we came out I ran down to wake my fam­ily down stairs,’’ she said.

Nine peo­ple were in­side the split level house, in­clud­ing four chil­dren.

The fam­ily were stand­ing on the foot­path in their py­ja­mas and barefeet as fire crew bat­tled the Arthur St­blaze in Toko­roa.

Fire crews man­aged to save the fam­ily car but Popata’s part­ner Richard only had time to grab his phone to ring for help.

They lost all their pro­ces­sions in the fire.

‘‘And be­fore you know it the whole thing was up, it was so fast...it was like get out grab the kids.’’

Smoke alarms were in the house and Toko­roa Vol­un­teer Fire Chief Dave Mor­ris said it could have been a dif­fer­ent story if they weren’t due to the in­ten­sity of the fire.

‘‘There is no doubt, in my opin­ion, that smoke alarms saved their lives,’’ Mor­ris said.

‘‘Chances are with ev­ery­body in bed the smoke would have over­come them and they may have died.

A to­tal of five fire crews worked from 10.30pm un­til 2am to ex­tin­guish the blaze and dampen down hot spots. But it reignited the next morn­ing and they were called back.

Mean­while, an un­usual bench­top wa­ter cooler is likely to have sparked a blaze that razed a sec­ond south Waikato fam­ily home.

Flames ex­ploded through the walls and melted the win­dows of the house in Wai­tangi Place on Fri­day night. The blaze fol­lowed a two-hour power cut in Toko­roa.

See page 5 for a story on the third house fire.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der way to find out why a Toko­roa fam­ily home went up in flames Tues­day evening.

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