'Idiot' turns off water as firefighters work

By Kristin Edge, Dylan Thorne

Volunteer firefighters were shocked by the actions of an ''idiot'' bystander who sabotaged their water supply as they fought a house blaze in Kaikohe-placing their lives at risk.

Two crews from the Kaikohe brigade were called to the house fire in Totara Place about 4.30am yesterday.

Fire investigator Craig Bain said as firefighters were about to go into the house fire through the back door the water supply stopped as the fire hydrant running off the town's mains water supply had been tampered with.

Quickly the pump operator realised water pressure to the appliance, which was pumping water to the firefighters, had dropped and established the reason why.

''It had the potential to be a life-threatening situation for the crews as they lost their water supply,'' Mr Bain said. ''The guys could have been put in a bit of danger.''

He said the volunteers were putting their lives on the line for others and for someone to endanger them was appalling.

The fire started below a window in one of the bedrooms. The house was destroyed.

Senior station officer Richard Penney said the fire crews had begun dampening down the fire when their water supply was compromised. It was the first time he had ever heard of someone tampering with a water supply as a crew fought a fire.

''It's our lifeline. [Water is] what protects us . . . if someone cuts that off then we are left without protection and it put lives at risk . . . it's a life threatening situation.''

Mr Penney said some intoxicated people had been milling around the area at the time of the fire but it was not clear who had been involved.

He urged those involved to take responsibility for their actions.

"No one was in the house at the time, but there could have been and they would have been putting lives at risk." .

Mr Penney said volunteer firefighters put their own safety at risk to help others and it was disturbing someone would place them in further danger.

"We know what the situation is when we make the decision to go in but if someone does this behind our backs it changes everything.

"It's a reflection of where society is going that there's idiots like that out there."

Kaikohe Deputy Chief Fire Officer Wiremu Matene said the house was totally involved when they arrived and crews were not sure if anyone was inside.

Detective Sergeant Sam Bindon said officers were still investigating whether the fire had been deliberately set. He urged anyone with information about the fire to contact him at Kerikeri police station 09 407 9211 or anonymously on 0800 Crimestoppers 0800 555 111.

- Northern Advocate

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