The blackened shell of the Ocean Grove home tells a story of
Scorched walls frame wreckage, the pervasive stench of smoke
hangs in the air, and the charred remains of a child's bike
are visible amid the ruin.
On the street, emotions are raw.
Neighbours recount their rush to help the occupants escape a
fireball that enveloped the two-storey house within moments
on Friday night.
They can take some comfort from their efforts. Owner John
Caley (65), his adult son Lucas, and Lucas' son, Ryder (2),
all escaped the inferno.
But that does not ease the sense of shock outside the home on
Saturday morning, as neighbours talk of fierce, crackling
heat and the speed with which the fire took hold.
As they talk, a woman, said to be Mr Caley's daughter, takes
photos of the mess before being led away in tears, too upset
A friend of Mr Caley, Bill Atherton (70), arrives at the
scene and begins to swear.
''It's a bloody shame,'' he says, shaking his head as his
voice cracks. Then Mr Caley arrives, bumping his
four-wheel-drive up and over the kerb before stepping out to
take in the scene in stunned silence.
He accepts a hug from Mr Atherton, walks slowly away, and
disappears into the wreckage of his home.
Neighbour Jaimie Wadsworth (29) describes the ''ball of
flames'' that burst out of a downstairs room at 336 Tomahawk
Rd, which was also home to Mr Caley's upholstery business.
Mr Wadsworth was in the home's downstairs workshop with Mr
Caley's son, Lucas, when the fire erupted from an adjoining
room, fuelled by chemicals inside the home.
When it started, Mr Wadsworth ran outside, searching for a
hose to try to extinguish the flames, while ''screaming at my
mate [Lucas] to get his kid out of the house''.
He went back into the burning home to find Lucas' father, who
was upstairs, before dragging him down a flight of stairs,
through rooms filling with smoke, to the safety of the
''Me and him both couldn't breathe at that time. The house
filled with smoke.
''I was pretty much in shock by the time I got out here [the
street],'' Mr Wadsworth said.
Lucas Caley also survived the dash upstairs to rescue his
2-year-old son from a bedroom, receiving burns to his arm and
face. He was discharged from Dunedin Hospital yesterday.
Mr Wadsworth, who also had burns to his hands and face, on
Saturday played down his actions.
''I just did what anyone else would do in that situation,''
he told the Otago Daily Times.
Rakesh Harrison (32), who lives next door, said he was
bathing his 5-month-old daughter when he heard fire alarms
and a commotion outside.
He rushed his daughter to safety, then raced to help Mr
Caley, who had collapsed on the grass outside his burning
home, moving him across the road to get away from the flames.
The fire also threatened Mr Harrison's own home next door,
blowing out windows, melting curtains and leaving carpets and
furniture inside smoke-damaged.
''Bro, it was full on. It was hot, mate,'' he told the
Otago Daily Times.
''The smoke was horrendous. It was amazing how quickly it
spread. Within two minutes, it was full on and we could feel
''We said 'let's get out of here','' Mr Harrison said.
Fire crews from Dunedin, St Kilda, Roslyn, Lookout Point and
Willowbank were called to tackle the blaze. Flames reached
across the street at one point, a Fire Service spokesman
Fire risk management officer Mike Harrison, of Dunedin, said
the fire was still being investigated, but a gas heater was
believed to be ''associated'' with the cause.
A scene examination was completed before the shell of the
house was knocked in yesterday for safety reasons.
The presence of the upholstery business meant the home had a
''high fuel loading'', which had not contributed to the start
of the fire but made it a ''very intense and very
fast-moving'', he said.
A strong breeze had fanned the flames, and firefighters had
done well to contain the fire.
He praised the actions of Mr Wadsworth and Lucas Caley.
''We don't recommend people go back into burning buildings,
for obvious reasons, but at the same time those guys did
great work in helping their family members and friends get
out of that building.''