Flashing strobe lights on a smoke alarm was enough to wake a deaf Whangarei woman and enable her to escape her home as a her kitchen started to go up in flames.

The drama in the Thomas St house in Tikipunga started about 4.20am on Wednesday.

The deaf woman and her grandchildren were able to get out of the house and raise the alarm before the fire really took hold. Firefighters were quickly on the scene and able to stop the fire spreading, containing it to the kitchen area.

Fire investigator Craig Bain said the likely cause of the fires was a kitchen rangehood above the stove which was ripped off the wall and dampened down outside the house.


"It looks like a fault has developed in the rangehood. While there is damage to the house it is still liveable," Mr Bain said.

He said the woman was deaf but her flashing smoke alarm had been enough to wake her and let her get out of the house early.

"She is very, very lucky. It could have been much worse."

Neighbours said they heard screaming early yesterday morning and then fire engine sirens. They said the woman had gone to stay with family in Hikurangi.

In August this year a Northland deaf advocate got a step closer to securing a law change to require visual fire alarms in public buildings.

Whangarei man Kim Robinson, who is the chairman of Deaf Action New Zealand, started a petition in August 2016 after deaf University of Auckland student Dean Buckley was left behind during a fire drill on campus.

Mr Robinson said Mr Buckley's story had caused other deaf people to share their stories, including sleeping through fire alarms in an actual fire in a hotel.

He passed the petition, with 737 signatures, to former Green MP Mojo Mathers, who is also deaf, and she presented it to Parliament.

The petition was assigned to the Government Administration Select Committee. Its report recommended that the New Zealand Building Code be amended so that visual fire alarms are mandatory in public buildings.

It also recommended mandatory visual fire alarms are included in the upcoming reviews by the Department of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment of the current rules for fire safety and evacuation.