Refugee family loses all to fire

A refugee family has been left homeless after a fire ripped through the house they were renting in Invercargill on Tuesday.

Elkin and Luisa Buitron outside their now uninhabitable Invercargill home. Photos: Laura Smith
Elkin and Luisa Buitron outside their now uninhabitable Invercargill home. Photos: Laura Smith

The sickeningly sweet smell of smoke greeted the Buitron family when they visited the fire-ravaged house yesterday.

The family of five had lived there for two years after arriving in the country as refuges from Colombia three years ago.

An electrical fault in their kitchen stove sparked the fire on Tuesday morning.

Luisa Buitron said, through a translator, all that mattered was their children were safe.

"We initially thought it was small but now realise the full extent."

No-one was home when their rental home ignited and her daughter’s cat was found safe and sound later in the day.

Smoke stained external paint above windows, glass and pottery was broken and the kitchen roof was burnt.

Pain was evident in the family’s faces yesterday as they viewed the damage from outside, and they looked to each other for comfort.

They were not able to enter the Queens Dr home to look for any surviving personal items such as photos.

The Buitron family rental home was extensively damaged by fire on Tuesday.
The Buitron family rental home was extensively damaged by fire on Tuesday.

Red Cross volunteer and Mar Colombia vice-president Jo Ussher said the home, owned by her friends, sustained 70% fire damage and 100% smoke and water damage.

"Nothing is salvageable."

Her and the family’s focus was now on finding suitable accommodation and medication for one daughter’s epilepsy.

While their rent had been suspended, it had proved difficult finding somewhere they could afford the bond.

In the meantime, the Buitrons were staying with family members.

laura.smith@odt.co.nz

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