The owner of a house that caught fire as she slept overnight says she would not be alive today if it were not for smoke alarms.
The Ōmokoroa woman, who asked not to be named, stood wide-eyed in disbelief outside her Hamurana Rd home this morning. Still in her dressing gown , the woman said from her driveway the early morning fire made her realise just how critical working smoke alarms were.
"I certainly wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them," she said.
About 2.25am the woman woke to the alarms going off from the bedroom next door.
"The room was closed and as soon as I opened the door, there was two to three feet of thick smoke."
The first thing that went through her mind was "this is not a drill", she said.
The woman found her two friends who had been staying over and all three shot out of the house.
One of the friends found a garden hose on the exterior of the wall where the fire burned. He opened a window and used it to try to put the fire out until members of the Ōmokoroa volunteer fire brigade arrived.
The man suffered smoke inhalation and St John Ambulance staff took him to Tauranga Hospital for treatment. The woman and her other friend were not hurt but shocked.
"If it wasn't for the alarms, I really don't know if I would be standing here now," she said.
The woman looked at a burned out bed and other fire-damaged items now lying on her front lawn. Most of the fire and smoke damage was contained to the room and the woman said she knew how lucky she was the damage was not worse.
"It's such an important message - having working smoke alarms. People need to know."
On June 5, fellow Ōmokoroa resident Inge Proovost, 54, was killed in another early morning house fire. It is believed she had been sleeping inside her Bramley Drive home at the time. Police are still investigating the case. Read more here.
Ōmokoroa fire chief Ian Blunt said the alarms were "absolutely crucial" in saving the house and its occupants. There had been three alarms in the upstairs level of the house.
"When we arrived the bedding on the bed was alight and fire had gone through to the mattress and there was quite a lot of toxic smoke. The house was completely smoke logged. It took quite a while to ventilate it."
Blunt said he did not recommend opening windows in an effort to try to put a fire out. The open window only added oxygen to the blaze, he said.
Smoke alarm advice
• Lots of homes fitted with smoke alarms remain unprotected due to flat or missing batteries.
• Once a month, check the battery by pressing the test button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle.
• Consider purchasing long-life photoelectric smoke alarms. These will give up to 10 years of smoke detection without battery replacements. However, you should still test them regularly to make sure they're working correctly.
• All smoke alarms have a "silence" feature that can be used to silence the sounder in the event of a false alarm. Press the silence button before you start cooking to silence the alarm for a pre-set period of time, between 8 and 15 minutes depending on the brand.
Source - Fire and Emergency New Zealand