House fire victim says alarms saved their lives

The fire took hold in Merv's house on Tuesday morning. File photo.

"If it wasn’t for the smoke alarms, we wouldn’t be here," says Merv Clearwater, whose house was severely damaged by fire in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

As reported in the Otago Daily Times, Merv and his wife Jill Clearwater, were woken by their smoke alarms and discovered the fire in the adjoining garage which then quickly spread into the roof.

The pair, along with their dog, managed to get out safely, but most of the house was either fire or smoke damaged.

National Manager Community Readiness and Resilience Steve Turek says this is a timely reminder to make sure you have working smoke alarms - press the button to check.

"To ensure you and your household get an early warning of fire, we recommend you have a smoke alarm in your hallways, bedrooms and living areas.

"As the fire in East Taieri shows, they do save lives.

"It’s also vital to have a household escape plan so you can get out quickly and safely in the event of a fire.

"If you haven’t already made one, take five minutes to do so at"

Steve says as we come into winter, there is an increased fire risk as people start to light their fireplaces and bring their heaters and electric blankets to keep warm.

"Fire moves incredibly fast - a house fire can kill within five minutes. As the weather gets colder, don’t take any chances.

"Remember the heater metre rule and keep flammable materials at least one metre away from any heat sources. And it’s one heater or larger appliance per plug - no more.

"Make sure you check your electric blanket is in good working order before you use it and turn it off before you go to sleep.

If you have a fireplace, take precautions to ensure a fire doesn’t spark or spread and make sure your chimneys and flues have been cleaned first. Check with your local provider as tradespeople are allowed to work under Level 3.

"Always use a fireguard or spark-guard fire and never throw rubbish into the fireplace - particularly batteries and aerosol cans."

"When you’re done with the fire, empty the ashes into a metal bin and pour water over them before disposal as they take up to 5 days to cool down."

"These fire safety tips are even more important to remember this winter with New Zealanders spending more time at home and staying in their bubbles to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Go to for more advice on how to keep safe when keeping warm this winter.

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