Dream 'foretold fire in family's home'

The Fakava family (from left), Veronika, Senita, Aloma and Boi, back at their family home, which...
The Fakava family (from left), Veronika, Senita, Aloma and Boi, back at their family home, which was badly damaged by fire on Wednesday night, to salvage their few surviving belongings. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
The smell of smoke hung in the warm breeze on Somerville St, Dunedin, as Aloma Fakava remembered a dream that foretold her family's tragedy.

"In Tonga, we have this belief ... that, like a fantail coming into your house, some things warn you of danger," she said yesterday, as family and friends loaded belongings on to a trailer.

"Not long ago, [a friend] had a dream that this happened in Tonga, that there was a fire, and that it was put out by New Zealand firefighters.

"It was strong enough to be remembered and talked about. We did not think that it could turn into something like this."

Miss Fakava (19) was looking up at the charred remains of the upper storey of her five-bedroom family home, where investigators worked through the embers in the lounge and dining room.

The fire started in the area of the couch and damaged most of the top storey. The ground floor was water damaged.

The family lost many things - photographs, keepsakes, furniture - but Miss Fakava said she felt lucky to have survived with her cousin, her cousin's child, and her dog.

Miss Fakava was in her parents' room when the fire started about 7.45pm on Wednesday. She was roused by her cousin, Dina Vakuti, yelling from the lounge.

Flames were leaping from the couch to the curtains.

"I panicked. I grabbed pots of water. I tried to see if the hose would reach, but I realised we couldn't do anything. We had to get out."

The flames danced in the window as she ran back to the house to let out her dog, Yolzah, before she ran to a neighbour to get help.

Firefighters were hard at work when parents Senita and Veronika Fakava arrived. Mrs Fakava shook when she realised the smoke and flames they had seen from Marne St were coming from their home, which was insured.

They were staying at a family member's flat, but would soon have to find a rented home, Mr Fakava said.

"It is bad, but we were lucky. Our family was safe, that is the main thing," Mr Fakava said. "We can replace many things, but we cannot replace our family."

Southern region fire safety officer Barry Gibson said the fire started accidentally in the area of the couch.

A fireball, 10 minutes after the fire started, happened when heated gas was discharged from the safety valve of an unattached lpg cylinder.

"Nobody was hurt, but it is important for people to remember: when there is a fire, you should get out and stay out, and call for help. A fire truck is always just minutes away in the city, so the sooner they are there, the better."

There was no battery in the nearest smoke alarm. The situation could have been much worse if the family had been asleep.


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