Two children were pulled from a burning car today by their
mother, who had left them alone in the vehicle while she went
to the bank.
A six-year-old boy and 22-month-old girl were alone in the
car on Baxter St, Warkworth, when the boy found a cigarette
lighter in the car.
Warkworth chief fire officer Ian Davies said the lighter was
used to start the fire.
"He was playing with a cigarette lighter and set fire to the
rear of the driver seat, right where his sister, a
22-month-old, was sitting," he said.
The children's mother was across the road from the parked
car, inside a bank. She pulled the six-year-old out of the
car but struggled to remove the baby in the child restraint.
A passerby, who didn't want to be named, saw smoke coming
from the car and ran to help the mother.
"The car seat was a little bit stuck; the release button
wasn't releasing immediately," she said.
"There was visible flames in the car close to the little
girl. If it had have been another few minutes it could have
been quite a different outcome."
Mr Davies said the blaze was put out by someone at the scene
with a fire extinguisher before the Fire Service arrived, and
the children did not suffer burns or smoke inhalation.
National manager of fire investigation Peter Wilding said
children playing with lighters was a problem "close to [his]
This was the third fire that had been started by children
left unattended in a vehicle with lighters or matches this
year, he said.
In every case the children have been plucked to safety by
someone who'd seen the fire.
"In all of the last three cases there just happened to be a
bystander walking past that could take action," Mr Wilding
"The chance of those kids being alive if [bystanders] had
been waiting for us to arrive would have been pretty slim."
Mr Wilding said no lighters were child-proof.
"The responsibility rests with the adults who buy the
lighters and who use the lighters to make sure they are kept
separate from kids.
On January 15 this year a mother left three children alone in
a car while she picked up a prescription from a pharmacy in
A fire began when a child played with matches inside the car.
The children were pulled from the van by a passerby and
treated at hospital for burns.
Later that month two young children were pulled from a
burning van in an Ohakune supermarket carpark. A lighter was
used to start that fire.
In April last year, two children were critically injured in a
fire that started when a child played with a lighter while
left unattended in a vehicle in Gisborne.
The children were pulled from the vehicle by five bystanders,
and suffered serious burns.