Five Northland families left homeless by fire in one month

Another Northland family has been left homeless and lost everything they own in the region’s fifth house fire in less than a month.

The latest blaze destroyed a home at Umawera, on State Highway 1 north of Ōkaihau, early yesterday.

All six people in the house — two adults and four children aged 3, 4, 6, and 12 — got out uninjured but with nothing more than the clothes they were wearing. Even their shoes went up in smoke.

The blaze has prompted a reminder from Fire and Emergency NZ about the importance of having working smoke alarms to give people early warning of fire and more time to get out.

Ōkaihau fire chief Andrew Graham said the alarm was raised about 5.30am with all six occupants getting out quickly.

Fire appliances responded from Ōkaihau and Kaikohe along with a tanker from Kerikeri.

Investigator Gary Beer said the fire was first seen on the home’s back wall while another occupant, woken by shouts of ”Get out, get out!”, saw flames shooting out of the laundry.

He had taken some samples for police to analyse but that didn’t mean he was treating the fire as suspicious.

The three-bedroom rented home didn’t have a working smoke alarm.

”It’s a timely reminder. We’ve had multiple house fires recently so that’s all the more reason to make sure you have smoke alarms in your home.”

Home fire safety tips
Want to make sure your home is fire safe? Here’s a checklist you can use to spot any risks or hazards that might cause a fire.
■ Install smoke alarms, ideally long-life photoelectric ones, in every bedroom, living area and hallway.
■ Keep your stovetop and rangehood clean.
■ Have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and know how to use it.
■ Make sure matches and lighters are stored out of reach of children.
■ Make sure powerpoints or multi-boards aren’t overloaded with appliances that use a lot of power, like heaters.
■ Fit lights with the correct bulb size and rating (in watts).
■ Make sure the fireplace has a screen with a proper fireguard and the chimney has been checked and/or swept in the past year.
■ Make sure your dryer is clean and has plenty of ventilation and air space around it.
■ Build balconies and deck surfaces with non-combustible materials.

Beer said Northlanders could request a free home fire safety check by phoning 0800 NZ FIRE (0800 693 473). They could call the same number to find out if they were eligible for free long-life photoelectric smoke alarms.

Part of the house, which had been relocated from another section in Umawera, was more than 100 years old.

Family members were too distraught to speak to the Advocate yesterday while they recovered from the shock at nearby Mangamuka Dairy, but confirmed they had lost everything — even their shoes.

They were fortunate, however, in that they had lots of whānau in Umawera and Mangamuka, who would put them up until they found their feet again.

Less than a week earlier solo dad Tui Strachan and his eight children were left homeless after a December 31 fire on Leonard St in Kawakawa. The fire also claimed the family pet, a bull terrier named Storm.

As of yesterday a massive $19,000 had been donated to the Strachan family via a Givealittle page ( set up by a neighbour.

On Christmas Eve another family lost their home on Hautapu Rd near Moerewa when a fish smoker on the deck caught fire and on December 18 a house in Tangonge Cres, Kaitaia, was destroyed by a suspicious fire.

On December 7 a house on Mason Ave, Moerewa, burned to the ground, leaving a couple and five children without a home.

A major wildfire in Ahipara last week forced the evacuation of up to 100 homes but none was destroyed.

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