The decision to leave hot ashes in a cardboard box nearly proved disastrous for a Northland family, who were alerted by smoke alarms.

Firefighters were called to a house fire on Tana Rd, off State Highway 12 in Ruawai, about 3am yesterday and upon arrival found a couple and two children standing outside their single-storey house.

Ruawai fire chief Kevin Evans said it was yet another callout where a family had been saved by smoke alarms.

He said a woman living in the house emptied ashes from the fireplace into a cardboard box on Saturday morning and left it on the wooden floor of the lounge.


"The hot ashes sat in the box whole day on Saturday and not just burnt the bottom of the box but also a hole in the floor. Luckily, there was nothing surrounding the cardboard box.

"There was a couch about a metre away and fortunately a smoke alarm in the lounge that alerted them and the family managed to promptly get out of the house," Evans said.

He said the woman extinguished the fire with a jug of water before emergency services were called.

"It's a timely reminder that smoke alarms save lives. It's also a timely reminder to treat ashes with great care. People think just because they've been left to cool down for a significant period of time that it should be safe but it's not."

Evans has also advised people to use a steel bucket to put hot ashes into rather than cardboard boxes or things that could burn easily.

Northland homes were among the first to receive free fire alarms during a safety campaign to coincide with the beginning of daylight saving last October.