Teenager died trying to save dog from fire

The teenage victim of a sleepout fire in Rangiora ignored the pleas of his friends not to re-enter the blazing building to rescue a dog, police said tonight.

Anthony James Chiles-Peart, 17, was spending the night in the sleepout at a friend's house during a school holiday get-together, when it caught fire at 3.58am today.

Mr Chiles-Peart and two other teenage boys in the sleepout all escaped, but Mr Chiles-Peart went back inside to rescue a small dog.

Detective Sergeant Rex Barnett said the dog had not belonged to Mr Chiles-Peart.

"His friends told him not to go back. Obviously it was fraught with danger."

Mr Barnett said it was believed the fire was caused by a candle left burning in a Chinese lantern.

There were no suspicious circumstances and the matter would be referred to the coroner.

The get-together had been "just an innocent sort of thing", he said.

But the occupants of the sleep-out -- a converted garage -- broke the cardinal rule of lighting a candle and going to sleep.

Rangiora Chief Fire Officer Ross Ditmer said one other person receiver minor injuries from the fire, and the dog died alongside Mr Chiles-Peart.

Firefighters found the teenager's badly charred remains about 3-1/2 metres from the sleep-out's sole exit, Mr Ditmer said.

He said people "almost universally" underestimated the speed of fire.

"Young people, who may be especially susceptible to thinking they're bullet-proof, can succumb to the blinding smoke, deadly gasses and ferocious heat produced by household fires...despite their general greater fitness and agility," he said.

Mr Ditmer said there were no smoke alarms in the sleep-out.

Senior Station Officer Graeme Reid confirmed a candle left burning in a Chinese lantern may have started the blaze.

"Given the amount of damage that occurred after the sleep-out became fully involved in fire, we're relying on the lack of other credible sources and the statements of witnesses who confirm the fire started in the area of a decorative lantern," Mr Reid said.

- NZPA

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