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A firefighter plucked a man from the roof of a central Dunedin building after a couch caught fire, filling the upper floors with acrid smoke.
Four people were treated for smoke inhalation following the fire at Dunedin House, on the corner of Moray Pl and Princes St, which was contained to the staffroom at the New Zealand School of Tourism's Dunedin Campus on the building's third floor, shortly after noon.
The cause of the blaze remained unclear yesterday afternoon as police prepared to interview people to determine how the couch caught alight.
The man who was rescued from the roof of the building by a firefighter in a Bronto Skylift aerial platform, and who declined to be named, said he was staying in a flat on a floor above the tourism school when smoke began creeping up the stairs and filling the corridors.
He praised the swift response of fire crews and said he was told to make his way to the roof, where he was promptly lifted to safety.
"They were great, they came up, told me where to go, chucked me in the bucket, and got me down.''
It was a change of pace for Dunedin fire crews to be dealing with a flaming couch indoors in the central city, he said.
"It's usually in the student quarter, isn't it?''
The couch was well alight, and due to its modern construction of polyurethane foam was burning intensely, Mr Torrance said.
"A couch like that has about 20 litres of oil in it, so once it gets going it can be quite intense.''
A person inside had attempted to extinguish the blaze with a dry powder fire extinguisher, but Mr Torrance said when fires were any bigger than 1sqm it was best to close the door and get out.
"Let us worry about it.''
A St John spokesman said none of the four people required transporting to hospital.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand fire risk management officer Scott Lanauze said yesterday afternoon he and another fire investigator, along with police, had yet to determine the source of the fire.
There was significant smoke damage inside the third floor, he said.
New Zealand School of Tourism Dunedin Campus manager Graham Weatherly said nobody was in the "trainer lunchroom'' at the time and the fire was quickly extinguished.
The campus would be closed today to allow for further assessment of the site.