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Four fire appliances were called to a fire in a Housing New Zealand property in Chapman St just before 3.30pm yesterday.
The house was home to former Syrian refugee Mohammad Saad Aldeen and his family.
Mr Aldeen came to Dunedin in December 2016 with his wife and first child after fleeing Syria for Lebanon.
His wife was alone at home cooking but briefly left the kitchen to go into their garden when a pan of oil caught fire.
She made it out of the house unscathed, Mr Aldeen said.
Senior Station Officer Pete Douglas, of Roslyn Fire Station, said a garden hose was used on the fire before firefighters arrived, which may have saved parts of the property from further damage.
The fire damaged about 70% of the interior. All the interior was smoke-damaged, Mr Douglas said.
''The big message here is unattended cooking has big consequences.''
About 15 members of the Dunedin's Syrian community watched as firefighters battled the blaze and comforted the Aldeen family.
After escaping war and persecution in his home country, Mr Aldeen is about to open his second Dunedin barbershop, staffed by other former refugees. He bought a barbershop business last year and was to open one in Mosgiel this month.