Owners return to fire ruin

By Amy McGillivray, Joseph Aldridge

The owners of a house ravaged by fire are counting themselves lucky.

Linda Vidanage and her husband, Sarath, were out when their Omokoroa home caught fire about 5pm on Monday.

More than a dozen firefighters spent about three hours battling the blaze on Harbour View Rd.

The top floor of the house was destroyed and there was serious water damage to the ground floor but Mrs Vidanage is looking at the bright side.

"We just came back from the South Island a funeral of a 15-year-old boy so this feels like nothing compared to that, that's a real tragedy.

"We'll deal with it and it will come back better than ever probably." The main thing is that no one was hurt, she said.

"When I came home at ten after five the street was blocked and I was met and they said 'you have to turn around' and I looked forward and I said 'I think that's my house'.

"First of all they asked me if I was Sarath and I actually thought because they know his name something had happened to him, but it was just the house, it wasn't him."

A huge amount of support from the neighbourhood has also lifted the couple's spirits.

"All the neighbours came, I mean we would have had 20 beds to sleep in last night, so we're all sorted in that way, we have a lot of support," Mrs Vidanage said.

Neighbours and friends were at the house yesterday afternoon, helping the Vidanage's to pack their remaining possessions.

"We're just grateful, we're just grateful that the firemen saved the big TV, the neighbours were all here when we weren't and got the computers out, a lot of things were saved, so we're just grateful."

Mrs Vidanage said there was extensive damage to their home of 15 years.

"Upstairs there's three bedrooms and a bathroom, all gone and downstairs it looks destroyed to me with the water damage. It doesn't look salvageable to me but the insurance is talking about it."

She thought an electrical fault had started the fire.

"That's the only thing I can think of... "

Tauranga fire safety officer Ken McKeagg said he had not yet established the cause of the fire.

He said the upstairs floor collapsed so he could not get up there to investigate.

Mr McKeagg said he would be returning today with a map of the house to talk to owners and find out what was stored upstairs that may have caused it.

Omokoroa volunteer firefighters were assisted by fire crews from Greerton and Waihi.

In total, there were 18 firefighters on site.

"When our guys got there she was blazing from end to end on the upper floor," Mr McKeagg said.


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