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Double blaze

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

A Mauriceville family thought they were doing a good deed offering shelter to the owner of a house destroyed by fire on Wednesday night.

But now they have lost everything after their own home was razed just hours later.

A 50-year-old woman has since been arrested and charged with arson.

Corrinne and Bruce Oliver, together with their daughter Chance, fled their burning house early yesterday morning with nothing more than the clothes on their backs.

The fire at the first property started at about 10pm on Wednesday. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The fire at the first property started at about 10pm on Wednesday. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

The full story began the night before, when a nearby house in the small township went up in flames.

At about 10pm on Wednesday, Mrs Oliver heard what she thought were gun shots.

The next thing she knew she had someone banging on her door, yelling “a house is on fire”.

Mrs Oliver called 111 and reported the blaze, about 100 metres from her Opaki Kaiparoro Rd property.

The house could not be saved — despite firefighters battling the blaze for three hours — and burned to the ground.

The woman who owned the house was unscathed, and the Olivers invited her to spend the night in their sleep-out.

At about 5am yesterday, the family was woken by a smoke alarm, which they say saved their lives.

“That’s what woke us up, the smoke alarm was going off,” Mrs Oliver said.

“I thought the woman must have been up cooking toast, and got up to help.”

When Mrs Oliver emerged from her bedroom at the top of the stairs, she saw the back half of her house was in flames.

The family bolted from the dwelling, through the front door, which had been left wide open.

“I was inside trying to grab anything I could, passports, anything with ID, while covering my mouth with my dressing gown.”

Mrs Oliver said she and her husband had just finished renovating the kitchen and dining room – effort all for nothing.

Everything inside their house has been destroyed, and the building they had called home for 26 years was beyond repair.

Family photographs, original artworks, and wedding rings were some of the irreplaceable items lost, as well as Chance’s brand new racing motorcycle, which was “melted into a little stump”.

“The three of us are alright though, that’s the main thing,” Mrs Oliver said.

Yesterday, the family took refuge in Mauriceville School, which is directly opposite their devastated home.

Gifts of cash and food have already been donated to the Olivers, as well as clothing as they escaped harm in their night wear.

Diane Sutherland, a close friend of the Oliver family, said although the situation was tragic, it was “really lucky” their home had working smoke alarms.

“Three people are alive because of them.”

Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton said initially police had not considered the first house fire to be suspicious.

But, after interviewing a suspect following the second fire, a woman was arrested and charged with arson.

She was due to appear in court today.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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