26 Nov 2013

Fire Service says 3-year-old started fatal blaze

7:31 pm on 26 November 2013

The Fire Service is reminding parents to ensure that matches are kept away from children following the death of a six-year-old girl in a house fire in Auckland.

Fire officers say the blaze on Oranga Avenue in Onehunga was started by a three-year-old girl found playing with matches. Emergency services were called to the house about 4.40pm on Monday.

Fire Service national manager fire investigation and arson Peter Wilding says the child was playing upstairs and the fire quickly took hold and set off a smoke alarm.

"A 10-year-old ran up and dragged the toddler to safety and those in the house evacuated and called 111. It is very sad that the six-year-old was unable to be rescued."

Mr Wilding said he was deeply sympathetic toward the family.

"This is a dreadful time for them and we are grateful there were working smoke alarms installed - the early warning and the quick thinking of an older child undoubtedly saved the lives of other people in the house."

Matches and lighters should always be kept out of the reach of children, he said.

"This tragic incident shows the importance of keeping matches out of children's hands and out of harm's way. We have had a large number of incidents in the past few years where children playing with matches or lighters have been badly burned or had very narrow escapes.

"Some children are fascinated by fire and it is important for any parent who notices any type of fire play to contact the Fire Service. We have a very effective and successful programme that teaches children the consequences of fire and in most cases, they end the behaviour."

It had been more than three years since a child died in a house fire in New Zealand, he said.

The girl's death has been referred to the coroner.