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Short St blaze ‘suspicious’

The Criminal Investigation Bureau [CIB] is investigating a suspicious fire that turned a Masterton home into a burned-out husk within minutes.

Emergency services descended on the one-bedroom flat on Short St just before midnight on Tuesday and did not depart until 4.30am.

Fire and Emergency confirmed the man who lived there was uninjured, and the fire is being treated as suspicious.

The man’s neighbour, who the Times-Age has agreed not to name, said the resident had lost everything in the blaze.

“It sounds like someone threw something through his bedroom window and it set the bed on fire,” the neighbour said.

“He smelt it from the lounge, but when he opened up the bedroom door he got engulfed in flames.” The man reportedly tried to extinguish the blaze with a towel, but could not get close enough.

“He had to leave – the house was alight in minutes, seconds. It’s so scary.”

The neighbour said the man’s prized collection of World War II memorabilia was completely destroyed.

“His father was in the war and he had a lot of history books and CDs about the war. All his precious stuff has gone. He’s very upset, it’s all his memories.”

Masterton firefighter and officer in charge Richard King said the house was engulfed in flames on arrival.

“We upgraded the call to second alarm, so we had four [fire trucks] in total.”

He said a crowd had formed outside and the communications centre had received multiple 111 calls.

King said the speed of the blaze was an important reminder to have working smoke alarms.

“That’s the thing with modern houses and all the combustible materials inside. Everything goes up very quickly.”

He said it was hard to determine where the fire began, but confirmed a fire investigator had been on the scene yesterday morning.

“Because of the intensity of the fire, the front half of the house is severely damaged.

“There were flames pouring out the windows, it was totally involved.”

Police did not speculate on how the blaze began, nor confirm reports they are looking for a white van leaving the scene.

However, a spokesperson said the CIB was at the scene yesterday, and inquiries are ongoing.

Police encouraged anyone who was on or around Short St at about 11.40pm on February 21 and saw anything – or have CCTV footage that could help police in their investigation – to contact them.

Anyone with information can call police on 105 or online via https://www.police.govt.nz/use-105 using ‘Update Report’ and quote file number ‘230222/9370’.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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