Tenant ‘abuses, hampers’ firefighters trying to save his home

Photograph of the destroyed sleepout, showing where the fire started spreading to the house.

A Northland man’s aggression towards firefighters trying to save his home put his property and the brigade at risk, a fire chief says.

Police had to be called to Thursday morning’s blaze on State Highway 12, near Wallis Rd just east of Kaikohe, to allow the volunteers to get on with the job of putting out the fire.

Despite that, Kaikohe fire chief Bill Hutchinson described it as “a good save”, with a sleepout destroyed but the house itself sustaining damage only to one wall.

The alarm was raised about 10.30am. When the Kaikohe Fire Brigade arrived, the sleepout was burning fiercely and flames were taking hold of the nearby house. The fire had also started spreading into scrub and pines.


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“But we managed to get it under control pretty quickly,” he said.

The home was unoccupied when the fire started. The occupant arrived a short time later and was immediately aggressive, abusing firefighters and refusing to follow instructions.

The man then went inside — apparently to get his phone and check the damage while the house was still on fire — which hampered efforts to put out the blaze and put the man and firefighters in danger.

The occupant was standing in the middle of high-pressure hoses, which can easily take out an eye or remove a leg if they burst.


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Hutchison urged people to follow firefighters’ directions and let them get on with their job.

“If they have to walk away, only a pile of ashes will be left. We do understand the emotion — you’re seeing your life go up in flames — but it’s putting firefighters, and yourself, at risk.”

Fire crews from Kaikohe, Ōkaihau and Kerikeri responded.

There was some water damage to the house, and one wall was fire-damaged but repairable.

Hutchinson said it was an especially good save considering the area had no reticulated water. Given the age of the house and the fact the fire had started spreading into the roof space, he estimated it would have taken less than one minute more before the entire house was engulfed by flames.

Fire investigator Gary Beer said the blaze in the detached garage, thought to have been used as a bedroom, was well-developed. As of 4pm on Thursday, he had been unable to determine the cause, so the investigation was continuing.

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