House set alight by stray firework

By Sandra Conchie

1 comment

A sleeping Omokoroa couple are lucky to be alive after firefighters were forced to smash their way into a four-storied home after a firework - one of several aimed at the couple's home - set fire to their roof.

The retired couple were asleep when Omokoroa Volunteer Fire Brigade members arrived at about 10pm on Friday evening having been alerted by neighbours and on arrival found part of the upper level of the house ablaze.

Bay of Plenty Fire Safety Officer John Rewi said the fire was put out fairly quickly and caused minor damage.

"But (it) could have been far more serious or even fatal for the home owners."

The fire started on the fourth level of the house, Mr Rewi said.

"The firework was jammed in between the roof iron and the ridge going up to the next storey.

"The flashing, building paper and internal structural timber were on fire and an external small lounge on the fourth floor leading to the owners' bedroom was smoke-logged, he said..

"It could have been an entirely different outcome for this couple, as we know it's usually smoke inhalation which kills people not fire," he said.

"Because the lounge next to the bedroom was completely smoke-logged another three to five minutes and it could have been an entirely different outcome," he said.

As soon as the fire brigade smashed their way into the house, the male occupant woke up, looked out the window and ran downstairs only to meet the firefighters as they were coming up the stairs, Mr Rewi said

"The home owner was a bit red-faced as the smoke alarm close by hadn't gone off as it had a flat battery ... I bet he has gone out today to buy lots more smoke alarms and batteries."

The house was insured, he said.

It is understood, the couple's next door neighbours alerted the fire brigade.

Mr Rewi said his investigation established the couple's property had been pelted by fireworks on Friday night, including one which landed on their balcony.

He said he had found 4-5 spent fireworks on their section when he visited the scene.

Mr Rewi said the number of firework-related fire incidents this year had been fewer than last year due to tighter restrictions.

"But I do question why people are being allowed to let off fireworks a week after Guy Fawkes Day when there is a fire ban in place."

When approached for comment by the Bay of Plenty Times the home owners said they did not wish to be identified.

But the male occupant said they were still very annoyed about what had occurred.

The man said he knew who was responsible for pelting their property with fireworks including one which was lit and landed close to their ranchslider.

"We are lucky to be still alive," he said.

Mr Rewi said it might be time to consider a total ban on the public sale of fireworks.

On Saturday night there was also a small fireworks-related vegetation fire at Okney Rd in Mount Maunganui which was put out by a resident with a garden hose.

Last week an Apata farmer called for a total ban on the public sale of fireworks following what he described as another year of Guy Fawkes "hooliganism".

Gary Haakma earlier told the Bay of Plenty Times that his animals panic when the fireworks start going off.

Fire crews around the Western Bay were also kept busy last Monday night putting out deliberately-lit and Mayors against ban

on fireworks sales

accidental fires caused by fireworks, a large majority of the callouts were fireworks-related.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Mayor Ross Paterson said it would have been pretty traumatic for the homeowners and tragic for the community if there had been a fatality.

However, Mr Paterson said he does not believe a total ban on the public sale of firework was required.

"I still think there is a place for community to experience the fun of letting off fireworks."

Mr Paterson said a total ban would be unfair as it would penalise responsible people for the actions of a "stupid few."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby agreed. He said he supported the current restrictions in place but would also support a ban on letting off fireworks when a fire ban was in place.

"The two go hand in hand," he said.

Mr Crosby said he did not believe there needed to be a total ban on the public sale of fireworks for Guy Fawkes night.

"Even if there was, there will always be some idiots who will go out of their way to get their hands on some and let them off irresponsibly."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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