Fire renders home a hollow shell

The burnt-out remains of the house on Norman Terrace

The fire that broke out in Norman Terrace on Sunday completely destroyed the house.

On Monday morning John Smalls, fire risk management officer and specialist fire investigator for Fire and Emergency New Zealand, said he wasn’t treating it as suspicious “but I just don’t know anything at the moment. It’s still early in the investigation.”

He said there were no guarantees that the causes of the fire would be determined because “the house is so extensively damaged”.

Deputy fire chief Tony Wellman said on Wednesday, “It definitely started in the corner of the living room, judging by the damage to the house.”

As to what causes these kinds of fire, “anything from an electric heater to clothes and drapes or someone putting ash in the wrong place. You know, you get heaters running and people just kind of forget about them,” he said.

“That’s why we have the one-metre rule: keep everything a metre away from anything hot.”

Asked how the fire brigade is alerted, he said people called 111, who then alerted Firecomm in Christchurch, who then alerted the Wakana staff by pagers and a siren. Wellman said the pagers were not always reliable because they sometimes had a delayed reaction, so the old-fashioned sirens worked best.


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