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Mother rescues sleeping baby from fire

By Hamish McNeilly

Jenna Pope, with her baby son, beside the fire damage in the bedroom of her Brighton home. Photo / Peter McIntosh
Jenna Pope, with her baby son, beside the fire damage in the bedroom of her Brighton home. Photo / Peter McIntosh

A new mother who rescued her sleeping baby and then battled a blaze in a bedroom is urging people to install smoke alarms.

Jenna Pope, 23, was making bread on Tuesday night when a smell of smoke made her rush into the bedroom of her Dunedin cottage to check on her two-week-old son.

To her horror, she found the room was filling with smoke and then the curtains, which were closed, burst into flame.

Miss Pope grabbed her son, who was sleeping in his basket, and "I just threw him out the front door, and yelled for help".

"I just thought I would at least try and get this under control, and I emptied the bins and put them under taps; even the dog's bowl was filling."

Her neighbour, who had heard her cries for help, contacted the Fire Service before helping refill her buckets, while "I was just smacking the flames out with pillows".

"The smoke was just so thick. The curtains went up the quickest but there was a pair of gumboots that were melting before my eyes."

The Brighton volunteer fire brigade arrived within minutes, and helped dampen down the fire.

In the meantime, a neighbour looked after her still sleeping son.

She and the baby were taken by ambulance to Dunedin Hospital for possible smoke inhalation.

"I had soot up my nose and around my mouth, and I just stunk of burnt plastic."

She said without her neighbour's assistance and the quick response of emergency services things could have been much worse.

"We were very lucky".

Miss Pope said her partner, who was away at the time, had earlier hung washing outside the bedroom door.

However, it appeared the wind had blown some of the curtain inside the door and over a bar heater, used to take the chill off the room the couple share with their son.

The incident served as a reminder to have working smoke alarms, she said.

"As soon as we moved in here, me and my partner knew we had to get one sorted and it was just one of those things ... 10 bucks for a new smoke alarm and we never got around to it.

"It was stupid, just the stupidest thing. I could have known about the fire so much earlier."

East Otago Fire Risk Management Officer Barry Gibson said it was always disappointing to have a fire in a home without working smoke alarms, and it was fortunate the latest incident did not end in a fatality.

"The fire occurred shortly after 10pm, which could have been more serious had all the occupants been in bed at the time ... which means the fire would have gone unchecked and a loss of life could have occurred."

Mr Gibson said in the event of a fire people should close the doors, not re-enter the building and seek help from a neighbour.

- Otago Daily Times

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