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Rain dampens fire risk

Published: 8:35AM Monday December 26, 2011 Source: Fairfax/Newstalk ZB

The Fire Service is relieved recent rain has kept the fire risk down but it is warning it will also bring problems.

National Rural Fire Officer Murray Dudfield says Northland is a concern this summer and a close watch is also being kept on Central Otago, parts of Southland and Canterbury.

Dudfield says the rain has seen increased growth in high country areas, but once grass starts to dry out it becomes more of a hazard because there's not enough stock to eat it.

He says the fire risk situation can change quickly if areas go 10 to 12 days without rain.

Auckland blazes

Meanwhile, Auckland firefighters have been kept busy with two blazes overnight.

The first one broke out at 10.20pm at a factory on Great South Road, opposite an Anglican Church.
It was well alight when firefighters arrived. Six fire trucks were there at the height of the fire and one stayed on scene.

Fire crews were then called to a house fire in Albany at 10.40pm. That blaze was also well alight when firefighters arrived.

Four fire trucks responded to the fire.

One person suffered minor facial burns and was taken to hospital.

Fire Safety officers are investigating both fires.

Meanwhile, an 87-year-old woman, who tried to put out a fire in her kitchen, came perilously close to being a Christmas morning casualty.

Mary Campbell was home alone when a fire began in the kitchen of her Mt Roskill house at 5am. She tried to fight the fire herself and was overcome by smoke while talking to the 111 operator.

"It was really touch and go," firefighter Neville Trevarton said.

 "Another minute or two and we may not have had the lady with us."

Trevarton, who called the rescue one of the closest calls he had seen in his 43-year career, said Mrs Campbell's case should serve as a warning for the public to never to attempt to put out a large fire themselves.

He said Mrs Campbell was locked inside the house, unable to reach a key.

She was in a stable condition in Auckland Hospital last night.

Also on Christmas Eve a man was taken to hospital after suffering burns in a fire that gutted his two-storey apartment in Mt Eden.

A woman was forced to run naked into the street to escape a fire in her Mangere home, also on Christmas Eve.

Lautau Motu, 32, lost her home and all her belongings in the fire, but managed to escape the flames with her two daughters under each arm.

Family escape as house burns

Christmas Day went up in flames for the five occupants of a house near Makarewa. About half the house was destroyed in the blaze.

Southland fire risk manager Paul Glanville said the fire was caused by a faulty box on the wall in the garage and began in the wall cavity.

The garage was attached to the house and one of the occupants smelled something burning. They tried to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher but it was too big.

The family evacuated the house and called the Fire Service, Glanville said.

The garage end of the house was "completely gutted", he said.

"There was nothing they could have done to prevent it."

Southern Fire Communications shift manager Andrew Norris said firefighters were alerted at 5.05pm and the Wallacetown brigade could see the smoke from the station.

It was 5.5 kilometres from the station to the property.

When they arrived at the house at 5.15pm it was well alight, he said.

Four tankers from Wallacetown, Invercargill, Hedgehope and Otautau attended the scene as well as two appliances.

No one was injured.