Terrified Otumoetai residents fled from a raging fire in the early hours of this morning just metres from the scene of the frightening landslide in the May floods. Landscape Rd was once again awake to near disaster as petrol-fuelled flames from a burning garage reached two adjoining houses before the fire brigade arrived.
“I saw them running out of the front house screaming,” one resident said at the scene about 3.45am.
“They had just moved in and in the house at the back there’s a solo mum,” said neighbour Bob Hagoort.
The street was dense with smoke, with clutches of concerned neighbours watching the drama from the safety perimeter formed by the three fire appliances.
“I heard a couple of sounds like shots going off,” one neighbour said.
“I thought it might be a car backfiring, so I poked my head out the window and saw all the smoke.”
He declined to be identified but echoed the remarks of other neighbours watching the fire when he referred back to the landslide.
“I’ve had enough of this. We get over one thing and something else comes along. I just hope there was no one inside.”
Another man said he was driving home from night shift and turned into his street to see the fire appliances flashing their warning lights.
“I thought ‘that’s my house, what about my kids’,” but then realised his house was not affected.
The fire broke out inside a double garage that links two houses at 10 and 10a Landscape Rd.
The landslide that remains a constant reminder of the flood is about 50m behind the houses.
Senior station officer Philip Price from the Tauranga fire brigade said the flames were just getting into the roof space of the two adjoining house as he arrived with his crew.
“We had received a number of calls and flames were shooting out the garage door when we arrived,” he said.
“It took time to get through the roller door and we were concerned at the greater risk to the house in front, as it had no firewall.
“There was a car burning inside the garage and a lot of stored stuff like beds, cupboards and bikes – all ruined.”
He said there were people in both houses when the fire struck but everyone was outside by the time the brigade arrived.
“The fire was just getting into the adjoining houses as we arrived but we stopped that.”
Firefighters in full survival gear entered the front house, which was completely smoke-logged.
“There was no smoke alarm in the front house or we would have heard it.” Mr Price said he spoke to one of the occupants and was told the man had been draining petrol from the car in the garage for use in another vehicle.
“He lit a cigarette, the fuel flashed and ignited. The roller door was down so he had to escape by climbing over the back seat of the car and ran out through the front house.”
The man and a woman occupant of the front house declined to comment at the scene this morning.
Mr Price said the rear house was not damaged by smoke and the fire had gained only a small hold in the roof. It was habitable, he said, but the female resident had chosen to spend the rest of the night elsewhere.