I couldn't let my local burn, says hero

By Peter de Graaf

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When fire broke out next door to Rata Moa's local, the Opononi shepherd didn't hesitate.

Not only is the Opononi Hotel his regular watering hole, it also employs his 21-year-old son as a barman - so he wasn't going to watch it burn down.

He climbed on to the roof with a garden hose hooked up to a tap at the front of the pub and kept the flames from the fire at the adjacent Four Square at bay for 20 minutes until firefighters arrived.

He knew he had no chance of putting the fire out but figured he could stop it spreading to the pub if he could keep the roof cool and the flames down.

The iron on the shop roof was glowing red hot and flames were shooting from a vent, he said.

Fortunately, there was plenty of pressure in the hose and the heat wasn't too intense - until the store's roof collapsed. Only then did he heed bystanders' shouts to get down.

"I tried my best. My son works here, and I don't want his job to go."

While Mr Moa was relieved the pub was still standing he was saddened by the loss of a shop that had stood at the Opononi waterfront longer than he had been alive.

"I really feel for the owner. Hopefully the community will get around him and support him. Opononi's a tight-knit place. I hope he gets his shop up and running again," Mr Moa said.

Hotel manager Colin Te Tai said Mr Moa would be treated to some free beers. Apart from some singeing to the roof, the only damage was to a sign on the front of the building.

Another hotel regular who felt for Four Square owner Paresh Patel was Trevor Thompson.

When the home of Rui and Chantal de Souza burnt down in Omapere last month, Mr Patel donated ''heaps'' of groceries as soon as he found out about the young family's plight. Mr Thompson was confident the community would now rally to help Mr Patel.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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