Victim owes life to alert woman

By Genevieve Helliwell

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A Gate Pa man owes his life to his neighbour who raised the alarm after his home filled with blackened smoke.

Ngaire Boud woke about 2.30am yesterday to the sound of a smoke alarm and noticed her neighbour's Carnie St house filled with smoke.

"I heard the smoke alarm going beep, beep, beep and I got up to find out where it was coming from. I looked out the window and it was lucky he left his curtains open because there was smoke in the kitchen," she said.

"So [my husband] James ran down there and shouted and banged on the door, and I rang the fire brigade and they had to break the door open to get in."

Despite Mr Boud's knocking, and a stereo playing inside the house, the man remained asleep.

"There was a lot of smoke. It was a haze in there. You would be lucky to see because the smoke was so heavy. There was a little window in the back part of the house and smoke was billowing out that," Mr Boud said.

"I couldn't get in, everything was solidly locked so I had to wait for the fire brigade. I didn't want to break a window in case it let oxygen in to start a fire," he said.

Northern Fire Communications shift supervisor Jaron Phillips said firefighters searched the house and found the man, who had moderate injuries.

He was treated at the property by St John ambulance staff.

Mr Boud said the man seemed jaded and disoriented, but otherwise all right.

When firefighters made their way into the house, they immediately threw a large smoking pot on to the grass outside, Mr Boud said.

When the Bay of Plenty Times visited the property yesterday afternoon, the pot remained outside and a burning smell hung in the air. The man, who lived at the property with his step-daughter and her boyfriend, was not at home.

The couple had been staying at a friend's house overnight and returned home yesterday to find a brown soot-like coating on the wall near the oven.

They said it appeared the man had put a pot of dinner on the stove-top element before falling asleep in his bedroom.

"He could have burnt the whole house down ... I'm so thankful for the neighbours. I'm amazed they heard [the smoke alarm] and acted on it," the man said.

Mrs Boud said she did not believe her neighbour knew how much danger he had been in.

"There was no lights on in the neighbourhood, apart from his house, and there was an eerie silence around. None of the other neighbours woke up. He could have easily died last night."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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