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The first erupted at a rental in Richardson St, St Kilda, about 2.30am, when a mother and her three children escaped uninjured but with nothing except the pyjamas they were wearing.
They could not be reached for comment yesterday, but were understood to be staying with a relative of their landlord and getting Victim Support's help.
The interior of the home was extensively damaged.
Fire and Emergency NZ fire risk management officer Mark Bredenbeck visited that morning and found ashes left beside the wooden wall of the home had sparked the blaze.
Also at the point of ignition was a charred plastic bag, but it could not be said for certain if the ashes were inside the bag.
The fact the fire had started in the home's lean-to meant firefighters were able to contain the blaze before it spread to the roof cavity and engulfed the entire house, he said.
In July, he urged caution when disposing of hot ashes after ashes left in a plastic bucket beside a woodpile caused a fire which sent a young mother and her two children fleeing for their lives.
He reiterated his warning yesterday.
"Hot ashes can stay hot for up to five days and can cause fires, so they must be contained in a suitable receptacle like a metal container and not placed near any combustible substances ... and pour some water on them."
The blaze then spread to the side of the house.
A neighbour alerted the two female occupants that the side of their house was on fire and they went to battle the blaze with a hose.
They were later seen rushing from the garden, coughing as acrid smoke filled the air on the windy day, as firefighters successfully battled to contain the fire.
One woman was seen in tears watching as firefighters rushed into the home and smoke billowed from doors and windows.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the other woman said ashes had been placed in the compost pile two days earlier.
She had lost little of value in the fire and declined offers of support, although she was taken to Dunedin Hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.
"It was pretty scary. I thought it was going to go up."