Fire leaves family of three with nothing

A fire at a flat in Waikaka has left three people with only the clothes they were wearing and with limited ways of replacing their belongings.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand received a call about 8.45am yesterday, from an occupant of one of the Galway St flats.

A Fenz spokeswoman said a fire crew from Waikaka and a pump and tanker crew from Tapanui were initially called to the scene. However, when the Waikaka crew arrived and found the co-joined flat well alight, more resources were requested and two pumps and a tanker were sent from the Gore station.

The occupants of both flats had safely evacuated the building before the Fenz crews arrived, she said.

Waikaka Fire and Emergency New Zealand chief officer Mervyn Clifford said despite one flat being fully engulfed, the other flat, occupied by a single person, was able to be saved.

The fire had left two adults and a child, aged about 7 or 8, with only the clothes they were standing in, he said.

"They’ve lost everything and it’s pretty hard under these circumstances, because now they have to find somewhere to [live] for the next three or four weeks, with no clothes, probably nothing, just what they got out with.

"We can’t even bring the community together to help sort them out. The community will be able to pull together but we just don’t know what we’re allowed to do at the moment."

About 20 firefighters were at the scene during the fire which was put out by about 10.10am.

All had to follow new protocols which meant firefighters had to try to keep about 2m away from each other at all times.

"I feel it went pretty well.

"Everyone tried to keep their distance and kept face masks on the whole time and gloved up when they could."

The volunteer firefighters could not complete the usual debrief but spent an extra hour wiping masks and other equipment with alcohol wipes, and getting kit organised to send away and be cleaned, rather than just hanging it up to dry.

"It took us about an hour longer afterwards to clean up," he said.

Mr Clifford said he had been in the brigade for 40 years and this was only the fourth house fire he had attended.

The fire was not being treated as suspicious but Invercargill chief fire investigator Murray Milne-Maresca was on the scene yesterday to determine how it had started, he said.

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