Candlelit bath nearly deadly

By Sonya Bateson

A Tauranga family is lucky to be alive after an extinguished candle set fire to timber framing inside a wall.

Greerton's Nathea Smith woke about 1.30am yesterday to use the bathroom and found smoke billowing out.

"I opened the bathroom door and the smoke just poured out. There were tiles on the walls, I could see the smoke coming up through the walls. The roof and everything was steaming. It wasn't in full flames, it was just smoking."

She woke her son Zack Davison, 11, grabbed her dog and ran outside after calling the fire brigade.

The firefighters ripped the tiles off the bathroom wall and discovered a smouldering fire in the timber framing, which they put out using Ms Smith's garden hose.

She was lucky she woke up when she did as the batteries in her two smoke alarms had recently gone flat, she said.

"I'm still in shock and my emotions are out of it but I'm just happy me and my son are still alive."

Ms Smith said that the previous night, Sunday, her flatmate had a bath with candles going which appeared to have started the fire.

"Candles radiate a lot of heat, you just don't even think about that when you have them. You think if you blow them out it will be fine, but the heat is going into the wall. "Don't have candles at all and make sure you have batteries in your smoke alarm."

Tauranga fire risk management officer Bill Rackham said the extinguished candle was the most likely cause of the fire.

"They had candles sitting on a wire rack and eventually the heat has gone through the wall. The heat has gone through the wall tiles and into the timber framing and started a small smouldering fire in the wall. The last time the candle was burning was between 10pm and 11pm on Sunday night and from the information we've been given it hadn't been lit since."

Mr Rackham said some towels and a picture had caught alight when Ms Smith opened the door letting air into the room. The rest of the damage was from the gradual smouldering in the wall.

"She didn't have working smoke alarms, if she hadn't woken up there could have been lives lost."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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