Luck and faith saved family from fire

By Imran Ali, Peter Jackson of the Northern Advocate -
Photo / File
Photo / File

A woman whose family lost everything when their house went up in flames at the weekend is warning people to discuss an escape plan in advance, "just in case of fire", make sure smoke alarms are in the right place, and get household insurance.

Chantal de Souza, her two small sons and husband Rui de Souza survived without a scratch when the fire broke out at their rented Omapere home - only hours after they had talked about what action to take should a fire occur.

"I'm just feeling lucky to have my kids and husband alive," she said yesterday.

On Saturday evening the couple lit their first fire in the old villa they had lived in for five months but became alarmed when smoke started to pour out of a crack in the hearth. They doused the fire, but before going to bed that night Mrs de Souza and her husband talked about what to do should the fire flare up again.

"We'll just grab the kids and rush out [that] door," they said.

What they didn't know was that embers had fallen through cracks in the fireplace and the underside of their floor was already burning.

Mr de Souza fell asleep on the couch but was woken when his hand became hot. He realised instantly that the fire was burning under the house and in the wall cavities.

He yelled out to his wife, waking her, and they grabbed 2-year-old Matias and 1-year-old Memphis and ran.

As the house become engulfed in flames - within five minutes - they stood outside clutching their still-sleeping children.

They fleetingly considered moving the family car which was parked close to the house. Within seconds the car was being licked by flames, then the boom of the exploding petrol tank added to the sounds of the raging fire.

"Now it seems like time was speeding up and slowing down during it," Mrs de Souza said.

"We were just standing there watching this thing happen. I was in pyjamas and no shoes, the boys were in their night stuff, Rui was dressed ... and that is all we have now, literally nothing but the clothes on our back."

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