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Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Paula Bennett has close call in house fire

MP saves only her Cabinet papers as she and husband flee from 3am blaze in Oratia.

Paula Bennett's house caught fire over the weekend. Photo / Facebook
Paula Bennett's house caught fire over the weekend. Photo / Facebook

Faced with a quickly escalating fire at her home, Social Development Minister Paula Bennett grabbed what she thought were her dearest personal items - her Cabinet papers.

The National MP for Waitakere says she was "very lucky" not to lose her Oratia home after a blaze started early yesterday morning.

Ms Bennett and her husband Alan Philps were unharmed in the fire, which consumed two walls in the bottom of their two-storey house and an outdoor shed.

She told the Herald she was woken around 3am in her upstairs bedroom.

"I think it was my husband who woke first, the room was filled with thick, black smoke and the smoke alarm was going off. It was really frightening, really disorienting.

"We came downstairs and there were flames behind the TV and in the corner of the room. The deck was on fire, and the woodshed was glowing.

"It was touch and go for a moment ... The firefighters told us that 10 more minutes and we would have lost the house."

Believing she had just 30 seconds to escape the fire, Ms Bennett only had time to grab her sensitive Government documents.

"The only thing I took was Cabinet papers," she said. "I'm now reflecting on that in the light of day. They're not the most important thing in the world to me. But at the time I thought a whole lot of people will be traipsing through [the house] and they are highly confidential."

The couple doused some flames with wet towels before the Fire Service arrived to finish the job. She posted pictures on her Facebook page of large holes burnt in the walls and charred floorboards.

She said the firefighters from the Glen Eden station did an "awesome" job in reducing damage. "I am the biggest supporter of smoke alarms."

The family did not lose any irreplaceable personal items. But she was saddened that her cherished karaoke machine had been damaged, adding: "I don't think there will be any Meatloaf in the house for a while, and my husband's pretty happy about that. He doesn't think it needs replacing."

The minister was also thankful that she did not have to run outside in her pyjamas in mid-winter weather: "It was pretty close, though ... I did get some jeans on."

- NZ Herald

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