Coal Creek family on West Coast have close call after blaze destroys house

By Brendon McMahon -
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Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Gary Pollock said if the smoke alarm had not been working they might have had a more tragic outcome. Photo / Greymouth Star
Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Gary Pollock said if the smoke alarm had not been working they might have had a more tragic outcome. Photo / Greymouth Star

A Coal Creek family has lost everything when fire tore through their home at 3 o'clock this morning.

Homeowner Luzanne Billett said her husband Joelyn and two children were safe but very lucky to escape with their lives.

"We heard the smoke alarms and grabbed the kids and got outside. Our home went up pretty quick and we didn't have a chance to get anything," Billett said.

"We lost everything, but it is the sentimental stuff we can never replace. We are lucky we got out and thankfully had smoke alarms, but it is such a big shock."

Cobden Volunteer Fire Brigade chief Gary Pollock said if the smoke alarm had not been working they might have had a more tragic outcome.

"It's a good old thing - smoke alarms save lives. They were awoken by the sound of a smoke alarm."

Pollock said as the fire engine reached Brewery Hill on the way to Coal Creek they knew the fire was big: "You could see the glow."

The older style wooden family home, near the McLeans Pit landfill turn-off, was well alight, with flames "licking out all the windows".

At that stage the two children and their mother had gone safely to a neighbouring house, Pollock said.

With the support of two appliances from Greymouth and one from Runanga, the fire took a good hour to bring under control initially.

At its height about 30 firefighting and emergency personnel were on the scene, including the new Fire Service Command Unit from Greymouth.

Pollock said about 90 per cent of the windows in the dwelling were blown out and a car and four-wheel motorbike parked outside were also destroyed.

"They've lost everything."

After dampening down the blackened remains, firefighters were able to clear the scene by about 6am but were called back an hour later due to a flare-up in a ceiling space in one corner of the gutted residence.

Pollock said the flare-up was probably fanned by a breeze; it took a further 30 minutes to control.

A Fire Service investigation was to get under way this morning as the fire cause was not obvious during the night.

However, given the hour the fire started it really proved why smoke alarms should be installed in every dwelling, he said.

"It definitely proves the point: smoke alarms save lives.

At that hour of the morning people are probably asleep the soundest."

Meanwhile, the Cobden brigade was also called to a ceiling fire in a Kerr Avenue home about 4pm yesterday.

Pollock said a cooking fire had funnelled through a rangehood into the ceiling cavity.

The brigade spent about 30 minutes at the scene. It was relatively straightforward to control once firefighters got access to the ceiling, he said.

The kitchen mainly sustained smoke and water damage.

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