A Dunedin couple and their newborn baby fled a house fire
caused by faulty Christmas tree lights yesterday morning.
The fire has prompted a Fire Service warning about the danger
of leaving Christmas lights on in unattended rooms.
''When you get the feeling to not leave your lights on, don't
leave your lights on ... listen to your intuition,'' new mum
Carol, who did not want her surname published, said at the
Corstorphine property yesterday.
The night before, she decorated the artificial tree with the
lights in the lounge of the Traquair St home.
''I got up at 5.30am to feed the baby and I thought I would
have a look at the nice Christmas tree.
''I saw the lights were still on and thought I should
probably turn the lights off because the daylight was coming
in, but it looked so pretty so I went back to bed.''
Just after 7am, the sleeping couple heard their dog barking
outside their bedroom window, just before a smoke alarm
sounded. The couple saw smoke as they opened their bedroom
door. Carol's husband ran to get their 8-week-old son
William, who was asleep in his bedroom next to the living
With his wife and baby safely outside, the man tried to fight
the fire but there ''was too much black smoke''. The home,
which was insured, received significant damage to the lounge,
hallway and roof. New electronic equipment and the baby's cot
and blankets were destroyed.
The couple had owned the property for three years.
Fortunately for the couple, wrapped Christmas presents had
not been put under the tree and would be opened at Christmas
when relatives visited from Australia and the North Island.
The couple said their baby's first Christmas was a memorable
one. He started crying only when he was rushed outside into
the cold following the blaze.
East Otago fire risk management officer Michael Harrison said
while the investigation was not over, ''it appears an
electrical malfunction in the Christmas tree lights has
caused the fire''.
''The Fire Service recommends that when you do have Christmas
tree lights, only have the lights on when people are in the
room or in the house and turn them off at night.''
He had encountered only two other similar incidents during
his firefighting career over the past decade, which included
stints in Auckland and the lower North Island.
''It is pretty rare. People should give their lights a good
visual inspection and any sign of broken wires or
overheating, such as flickering lights, then it is time to
throw them out and replace them.''
Mr Harrison said those with real Christmas trees should keep
them well watered to ''slow down the drying-out process'',
and should not have candles or tea lights near the tree.
People should also remove their Christmas trees after the
festive season, as they were a fire hazard, he said.