A Northland woman says skills learnt on a First Aid course were crucial when it came to helping a man seriously injured in a gas cooker explosion and now she is urging others to gain lifesaving expertise.
Anna, an Onerahi resident who does not want her full name published, rushed to the aid of her neighbour after hearing a "big bang" and seeing flames coming from his small home on Sorrento St on Wednesday about 6.15am.
Onerahi 34-year-old Simon Culina remains in an induced coma in a stable condition at Middlemore Hospital's burns unit with an estimated 60 per cent of his body burnt.
A fireball blew a hole in the side of a cabin where Culina had been staying when he went to light a gas cooker. A fire investigator said there had been a leak and build up of gas in the small cabin and it ignited, causing a potentially lethal explosion.
It was a horrifying moment when Anna realised her neighbour was in serious trouble.
"From our deck I could see the flames and Simon screaming for help," Anna said.
She instructed her partner Matt to call emergency services while she dashed next door to help Culina.
"When I got there he was outside the cabin. I told him we needed to get him to the house and get cold water on him, get him in the shower."
The fiery blast had destroyed his clothes and he was in extreme pain.
Anna got him to the shower and doused him in cold water.
"Through work at Harvey Furnishings I did a St John first aid course last year. All that information was stored in my brain somewhere and that training came back to me," Anna said.
"It all happened so fast."
Her partner Matt stayed next door and was shortly joined by an Onerahi volunteer firefighter who lived nearby. The rest of the Onerahi brigade arrived along with a team from the Whangārei station.
She said emergency workers came to her house and took over caring for Culina. He was taken away in an ambulance.
"I recommend people do a first aid course ... you never know when you might need those lifesaving skills. And the volunteer firefighters in our community are an amazing asset.
They did a great job and responded so quickly."
Friends have set up a give a little page to help Culina with his recovery.
Friend Hanna King created the givealittle account and described Culina as "one of those creative alternative types who has a big heart for anyone".
"We want to help with repairs and assist with his recovery over the next four months," King said.
"He is a very close friend of ours and we have known him for many years. Practically family."
He would be receiving skin grafts and intensive medical treatment of the burns that covered most of his body.
The funds would be used to rebuild the small cabin before Culina got out of hospital so he could live in the place he has put so much effort into creating, she said.
Items destroyed in the explosion would also be replaced.
Whangārei District Council councillor Nicholas Connop said Culina, who he had know for the past 10 years, was a young father who had been creating a garden in his back yard that he would eventually transform into a community meditation place.
The small shed where the explosion happened was to be transformed into a coffee hut.
"To see what he has done by creating tracks and building bridges on the section is amazing," Connop said.
"Simon is one of those tough as nail guys and he will fight to get himself up and going again. He has great friends and family support."
He praised the actions of the quick-thinking neighbours and firefighters.
"To hear that the neighbours ran to his aid is awesome. Really glad they jumped into action so quickly and big kudos to them. Great response time by Emergency services too."
Connop appealed to community members who would be able to help with keeping pathways around the property clear over the next four months while Culina was recovering.
"He and his family will be very grateful."
If you would like to help Simon Culina donate here https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/help-simon-rebuild-his-life