Brendan Bourne was asleep in bed on Friday night when his son ran in to tell him the house next door was on fire.
Adrenaline kicked in. Barefoot and in pyjamas, Bourne jumped out of bed and ran downstairs to grab the garden hose. He could only think of two things: The dead trees – a fire hazard at the bottom of the neighbour’s hillside property – and the children sleeping in neighbouring bedrooms just metres away.
The wind was blowing hard towards his own house, in the Christchurch suburb of Mt Pleasant. The two properties are almost identical and stand only about four metres apart. As he ran towards the inferno, Bourne tripped and fell down the hill, injuring his foot and back. Not feeling any pain, he got back up and started hosing down the dead trees and the fence separating the burning house from the next-door home where children slept.
“It was horrifically hot and terrifying,” he said.
Windows were exploding and flames were leaping out of the million-dollar house’s first storey, but they had not yet reached downstairs. Bourne, unaware that his neighbour was not home, opened the door and started hosing down the staircase. He called out to his neighbour several times but had to give up when flames spread. The entire lower storey was engulfed within ten seconds, he said.
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* Car crashes into hedge in North Canterbury
Relieved to hear fire sirens, Bourne ran back to his wife and children. They had rung 111 and knocked on all the neighbours’ doors. In the end, no one was hurt, and firefighters brought the blaze under control by 1:30am on Saturday. Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) are treating the fire as suspicious, and Police are investigating.
“It could have been a disaster,” Bourne said, “I went from adrenaline, to emotion, to really angry. If my son had not heard the windows exploding we could have lost three or four houses.”
The house looked like “a bomb’s gone off in the middle of it”, he said.
The fire was one of three serious blazes across the South Island that Fenz responded to over the weekend.
A house bus fire in Cheviot was also being treated as suspicious, while the cause of a house fire in Blenheim was still being investigated.
Fenz shift manager Riwai Grace told Stuff they were called to Mt Pleasant fire about 10.20pm on Friday.
“It was very visible and we received multiple calls,’’ he said.