Mum's fire terror

By Merania Karauria

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Bella is tiny and only 11 months old, but her insistent, urgent barking on Monday night has been credited with saving a family of four from tragedy.

And the dog's owner Jo Conroy says she cannot bear to think about a different outcome from the fire that gutted her children's bedroom. She has spoken to the Chronicle of her terror at entering the smoke-filled bedroom and being unable to see her children after being alerted to the fire by the barking of Bella at about 8.30pm.

"I thought she was barking at my son, who was hanging something out the bedroom window."

But Bella wouldn't let up. Ms Conroy thought the dog was barking at neighbours because of a snipping sound, like garden pruning. But the sound was flames licking along the side of the wooden villa on the corner of Dublin and Keith streets.

"I told her to be quiet, but then she was just going crazy, barking insanely."

Ms Conroy saw flames coming from her children's bedroom window, which had been broken by the heat of the fire.

Ms Conroy ran inside with the children's father to the children's bedroom, which was full of smoke.

Ms Conroy could only see one bed and the windowand she could not see the children; it was terrifying for Ms Conroy as she called: "Where are you?"

The noise was deafening and the smoke choking, and if the children were calling back to her, Ms Conroy did not hear.

Then she felt her daughter's hand reach out from under the bed and touch her foot. Her son also put out his hand.

They were in a small space between the wall and a box of toys. She pulled out her 2-year old daughter and then pulled out her son, aged 4, and the family ran outside.

All four spent the night in Wanganui Hospital where they were treated for smoke inhalation. Three days later, Ms Conroy is reflective about the family's good fortune.

They lost everything, but they were covered by insurance. "Nothing is left of the bedroom. It was completely gutted.'

But it is the generosity of the town that has amazed her.

"The whole town has shown a huge heart and fantastic empathy. The wider community has given assistance."

She cuddles Bella and tells her she'll be getting a bone every day.

"Bella is always very good with the children. She has a love affair with my daughter."

Today, Ms Conroy and her children will leave Wanganui for Taranaki, where she is going to be a beekeeper.

A glass artist, Ms Conroy will return to Wanganui to work at her craft at weekends.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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