Reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Fire at house where police dog killed

Police are seeking witnesses to the fire which engulfed Porirua's Kokiri Crescent house where Pita Tekira shot and killed a police dog before fleeing down the street and holing up in a nearby house for nearly 23 hours last month.

Police were called to Kokiri Crescent at 10.45pm yesterday where the house was fully engulfed in flames. The blaze was brought under control a short time later.

A Newstalk ZB reporter said there was a thick smell of smoke in the air.

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The house, half of a semi-detached two-storey unit, appears completely gutted.

The front windows are smashed, the white weatherboards are charred black, the guttering is melted and most of the window frames are burnt.

Police and fire investigators are expected on site later this morning.

A police spokesman said the fire - at the Kokiri Cres property where Tekira shot police dog Gazza - was being treated as suspicious.

Mr Tekira, who was on bail for dishonesty, driving and violence offences but had removed his electronic monitoring bracelet and absconded, was later found dead at a house on the street.

A fire communications spokesman said four fire crews were sent to fight the blaze. Police cordoned off part of the road. There were no reports of anyone being injured in the fire.

Security guards keep watch over the house. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Security guards keep watch over the house. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Neighbours say they're feeling scared.

Ruth Vaipapa, her brother and a friend were the first on the scene. A neighbour rang police and fire as the flames took hold.

The family in the unit next door was calling for help.

Ruth's mother, Aiga Siamani, said after the events of the past ten days she wasn't feeling safe.

"All the drama keeps happening here on our street. We feel upset and unsafe ourselves.
"I feel sorry for the two families living in the flats."

Twelve-year-old Joyana Poti lives next door and was asleep in her grandparents' upstairs bedroom just metres away from the blaze.

The wind was luckily blowing the fire away from their house.

"I was asleep when it happened," Joyana said.

Simon Paul, who lives next to the house gutted in last night's fire in Kokiri avenue, Porirua. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Simon Paul, who lives next to the house gutted in last night's fire in Kokiri avenue, Porirua. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"My nan came in to wake me up and I got a fright because I didn't know what happened.

"All I saw next door was a big bright orange light and that's when they told me it's a fire. As I was coming down the stairs I nearly fell, I thought I was facing a heart attack."

Joyana and her family went to a neighbour's house for the night.

Joyana's grandfather, Simon Paul, was watching TV when his son told him what was happening next door.

"It sounded like gunshots but it wasn't, it was a house exploding. [My son] had a look and he goes, 'oh no dad, the house is on fire next door'. I was going, 'oh no'.

"When we came out it was in flames, orange flames. It was coming out from the window on the top."

Mr Paul could feel the heat as he and his family left their house.

He also saw a woman from the unit next to the burning one running outside screaming.
"I don't know what happened after that but she did get out safely. She's got kids too, they're young, look like a young Asian family."

Mr Paul said it was normally a quiet street apart from the odd party.

Another witness said the initial siege was bad enough, and now this. He doesn't feel safe in his own home anymore.

Another witness said about midnight that the blaze had been bad, but appeared to have been put out.

"We got told it started upstairs in the bedroom but as soon as we went out it looked like it came from the backyard," the young man said.

"The shooting was bad enough, and now this. Don't even feel safe in our own home anymore, it's getting out of control."

He believed the fire was linked to last month's siege.

Daniel Lawrence was about to head to bed last night when the fire broke out.

"I heard windows breaking and screaming going on. I looked out of the bedroom window and saw the house up in flames. It was pretty scary, close to home."

After no drama on the street for a decade, this was the second incident in a fortnight, he said.

"We were just calming down after the shooting."

Some residents were talking about moving but Mr Lawrence, who lives diagonally opposite the house, was staying put.

He said there was a family in the adjoining unit who got out safely.

Mr Lawrence managed to get to sleep about 2am.

The flames were visible from a considerable distance away, and many Porirua residents shared photos and videos on social media.

Just after midnight, a Fire Service spokesman said the blaze had been extinguished, but crews remained on site cooling down hot spots.

He said they would likely remain at the scene "for some time".

An investigation by a specialist Fire Service team and police would be undertaken in the morning, the spokesman said.

Housing NZ said this morning the house burned in last night's fire would probably be demolished.

Area manager Kathy Furfie said the organisation was pleased nobody was injured in the fire at 26A Kokiri Crescent last night.

"The fire was significant and it is likely that the property will need to be demolished," she said.

"The property was tenanted before the incident occurred last week. The tenant has been staying with family and was not at home."

Ms Furfie said the adjoining property was tenanted but the people who live there were out, although that contrasted with neighbours who said they saw and heard a woman there calling for help.

"We will be working with [the tenants] to make sure they have accommodation while police and fire investigate," Ms Furfie said.

"If they are unable to return to the property we will work with them to find them alternative accommodation."

This is not the first time a house associated with death has been damaged by fire.
In 1941, the West Coast home of Stan Graham - who had shot dead seven people, including police and soldiers - was torched.

In 1990 at Aramoana, near Dunedin, the home of David Gray - who massacred 13 people including children - was destroyed by fire.

In 1992, the Judds Rd, Masterton, home where Raymond Ratima stabbed and bludgeoned to death seven members of his family, including his three young sons, was razed.

And in 1994, the Every St, Dunedin, home where five members of the Bain family were murdered was burned down by the Fire Service, with the agreement of the family's trustees.

- NZ Herald

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