Bodies to be removed from Sth Dunedin house today

A bouquet of flowers is placed outside a Wesley St property after a fatal fire in Dunedin...
A bouquet of flowers is placed outside a Wesley St property after a fatal fire in Dunedin yesterday. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN.
The bodies of two people who died when fire ripped through a South Dunedin house yesterday morning are expected to be removed today, police say.

Fire investigators are yet to determine the cause of yesterday's South Dunedin house fire, which killed two people and left friends "shocked and devastated''.

​Witnesses saw heat from flames smashing windows and smoke billowing from the roof of the one-storey wooden property in Wesley St about 5.10am.

Police said in a statement this morning that they and Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) were today continuing to examine the scene of the fire.

Environmental Science and Research (ESR) was also providing assistance at the scene.

"We expect to be able to remove the bodies of the deceased from the house this afternoon, and post mortems will be done tomorrow."

The names of the deceased would not be released until they had completed formal identification.

"Police are grateful for the information received from the public so far, and would still like to hear from anyone else who may have seen or heard something which could assist our investigation."

Fenz fire investigator Mark Bredenbeck, of Dunedin, said the firefighters on the first appliance to arrive saw it was quite a large fire so called in more vehicles.

"When we arrived the road was full of smoke. The fire has been subdued, but unfortunately two people at the rear of the property did not make it out,'' he said.

The property contained two flats.

There was significant damage inside the back flat, he said.

"There has been some water damage and smoke damage to the front flat.''

The front flat had a working smoke alarm, but he could not determine yesterday whether the back flat had one too.

There was some damage to spouting on the sides of other properties, but "nothing too serious'', he said.

The investigation was expected to take all yesterday and potentially part of today, he said.

The incident showed the importance of smoke alarms, he said.

"Today it proved that one person in the house in the front was able to get out because of that.''

Neighbour Dylan Ryall said he went outside as soon as he was alerted to the fire by his step-mother.

"First we saw smoke coming off the roof, then the front window ... actually blew out - flames were coming out the side of it.''

Soon after the back window of a neighbouring property also blew out, he said.

He could see the glimmering of fire, but it was mostly inside the building, he said.

Friends of the deceased, who did not want to be named, said they were "shocked and devastated'' by the news.

Mr Ryall's step-mother, Mel Ryall, said the tenants of the back flat often burned rubbish in drums in their back yard.

Neighbour Dave Kirkman said he was woken up by the noise of the smoke alarms and fire trucks.

"There was a bit of smoke, but it was so dark I couldn't really see much.''

Fenz communications spokesman Rewai Grace said the first firefighters arrived at the scene about three minutes after they were alerted to the incident.

"On the way there, we noticed there was unfortunately a good glow in the morning sky, so we called in another engine,'' he said.

The house was well ablaze on their arrival, Mr Grace said.

In a statement yesterday police said the fire was being treated as unexplained and they would like to hear from anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious in the area around the time of the fire.

Police were working with Fenz to determine the cause of the fire.

According to Dunedin City Council rates information, David and Marilyn Richardson, of Waitati, are the owners of the property. They could not be contacted yesterday.

jono.edwards@odt.co.nz

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