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‘Grab the kids and dog’ – Family forced to flee Newtown home as huge fire took hold

Wellington resident Nicola Blacker says she thought the constant noise of sirens last night was because they lived near the hospital.

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“I screamed at my partner to get out of bed and to grab the kids and dog,” Nicola Blacker says. Source: 1 NEWS

By Nichola Scarlett

This was until she looked out of her upstairs window, seeing a wall of flames.

“I screamed at my partner to get out of bed and to grab the kids and dog,” she told 1 NEWS.

She said as they left, she was terrified of burning embers falling onto her house.

“As we were coming out of the front door, there were some really huge embers. With these wooden houses, it would only take one ember and the whole place would be gone.”

Blacker and her family were taken in by friends, who picked them up late last night.

She said when she woke up this morning, they weren’t sure if they had a house anymore.

“We’ve been here for 10 years. We’ve raised our kids here. It’s scary to think that it could have burnt down.”

Homeowner Bill Guthrie had owned one of the houses that burnt down since the early 1980s.

“It’s very sad looking at it. We had a lot of memories in there.”

He said he had approached Wellington City Council several times about the derelict house next door, with nothing being done about the possible fire and safety hazard the house posed.

Guthrie said that he had boarded up the house in hopes of stopping loitering, but people often found a way in.

He said that no one officially lived in the property and believed that squatters stayed there.

Guthrie believed that if someone had done something about the derelict house, it could have prevented the fire from happening.

Richard MacLean of Wellington City Council said that the council had been dealing with the property and responding to complaints about it for a long time.

He said that the Council had been actively working to manage the complaints from neighbours about the state of the property.

Fire and Emergency NZ assistant area commander Michael Dombroski says this was the first big fire he had seen for a few years.

“It’s not uncommon to get a major fire in Wellington. It does go with the territory here.”

Dombroski said that if the occupants of the houses burnt had been asleep during the blaze, it would be unlikely for them to make it out in time.

In the peak of the fire, there were 17 operational crews on the scene, with around 70 firefighters.

The cause of the fire has not yet been announced.