Fire experts did not want to comment yesterday as they are still completing their investigations into the blaze. But the owner claims the circumstances of the fire at the out-of-the way property indicate that it could have been lit whilst two occupants slept inside. One of the occupants, Tina Daly, says she arrived home from her café business in town after 6pm, and fell asleep around 7pm in her bedroom at the rear of the house.
She was woken by her flatmate Moana Matapo, who had also fallen asleep, but in front of the TV, much closer to the seat of the blaze.
Daly says she heard Matapo yelling for her to get out of the house, as the front of the home was on fire. The strong smell of smoke and a crackling sound had awoken Matapo from her nap.
She raced through the kitchen and the dining area’s two double glass doors that separated it from the front room, to see the fire.
Daly says the low solid entrance wall to the house and the upper part of the façade, constructed of wooden trellising, was glowing hot.
“Stepping into the room was like a furnace. The whole wall from one end to the other was one huge glow. You could see the heat. It was like looking into a furnace. And I could see the flames coming under the eaves. I knew at any second the flames were going to come through that wall, because it was ready to burst.”
After retreating from the extreme heat, the pair escaped through a side door of the home with just the clothes they were wearing and Daly’s handbag. They then quickly moved their car and motorbike away from an adjacent carport.
With no means to contain the already out-of-control blaze, Daly drove to her cousin’s house, a few minutes up the road to report the fire to emergency services.
Fire services later told her that they received the call at 7.22pm.
She says a lot happened within a few minutes. And if the pair hadn’t woken straight away, she says they could have been caught in the blaze.
Daly says her granddaughter had left the home around 6.40pm to go to her dance practice and suspects the fire started soon after they fell asleep at around 7pm.
She says it would have been obvious someone was home, as the light was on, and a car and bike were parked beside it.
Daly says the house is down a private road, signposted “residents only”. It is the only wooden home within the immediate area, and is surrounded by block houses.
She says the house was also very close to the road.
Daly says there was light rain that evening, which would rule out a random cigarette or something similar accidently starting the fire.
She says she doesn’t think they were deliberately targeted, but adds she suspects someone appears to have wanted to burn something.
And she says she is concerned for the welfare of others in the community following a spate of fires on the island.
The blaze was the third of four fires which occurred on the island within a few days of each other.
The first was at Blue Sky Cook Islands’ core site in Aroa, Arorangi on October 27. The building was destroyed, disrupting mobile network services to Rarotonga and Aitutaki.
Willie Haggai of the Fire Authority says the site was being monitored by surveillance at the time, and the fire did not appear to be suspicious.
A second fire was reported at First Windows and Doors in Nikao in the early hours of Sunday morning October 29. Haggai says this fire also does not appear to be suspicious.
The Avaitu valley fire on October 31 was the third fire attended by the Fire Authority, but the first residential callout in the recent spate of incidents. This fire is still being investigated.
Hagai says they received the report of the fourth fire at Arorangi at 1.30am the following morning. A workshop was completely destroyed in the blaze.