What would you do if your house was on fire?

Published March 04, 2014

The recent house fire in Omata which totally gutted my neighbour’s home was a huge wake up call for me and everyone in our neighbourhood.

I realised I wouldn’t know what to do if my house caught on fire.

We think we are safe and we think our property is safe because we have the fire service to look after us.

The reality is a little harsher when you live in rural areas – the time and resources may be adequate to save lives but not necessarily property.

Life is the most important aspect but we all pour our heart and soul into creating our own little oasis called ‘home’ and when this is threatened by fire it is devastating.

I have talked at length with fire officers to determine what we, the rural folk, can do to mitigate the damage and I would urge all lifestyle block owners and farmers to take a serious look at how they would deal with a fire.

I have talked with insurance brokers to find out how we can plan for such events to help reduce the anguish and trauma that ensues.

Water and lots of it is the key to fighting a house or scrub fire but have you given any thought to where the fire service will get this water?

A rural water supply to help fight a house fire (or scrub fire) could be a water tank or swimming pool but it needs to be delivered to the fire at pressure from a pump or from a height (head pressure) using hard suction from the bottom of a tank (most tanks only have holes in the top).

It is possible to obtain fire fittings for the bottom of water tanks and also the hose fittings to speed up putting out the fire. Ring Nigel Dravitzki – the principle rural fire officer for more details on where to source these on 027 410 5103

If the water supply is a pond, lake, pool or creek (river) then the brigade needs to be able to set up a portable pump close to the water supply and pump from there through 45-100mm hard hoses – this takes time to set up.

I can’t emphasise enough how important a good supply of water is. The fire chief is not going to send fire fighters into a blaze without first establishing a line to a suitably sized water supply.

Water is what keeps the fire fighters from harm along with putting out the fire!

The Oakura Fire Brigade attends a fire with an onboard water supply of 1350 litres. The New Plymouth brigade carries the same – tiny amounts when you understand a fire may need between 45,000 and 180,000 litres to put out.

An entire room can be engulfed in flames in three minutes so having easy access to and a plentiful supply of water is a must for containing a fire.

It is going to take the fire brigade a minimum of 10 minutes to reach your home before they even start setting up their fire fighting systems. Our homes are full of highly combustible material.


The further you live away from the fire brigade the higher the chance of losing everything unless you have planned carefully.

If you would like to discuss your options with the fire service then contact the New Plymouth Fire Station and ask for the fire safety officer on 7573860.

I don’t think it is sufficient preparation to say “we’re insured”. The cost of losing everything is huge – financially, emotionally and physically.

If you can spend a few extra dollars addressing the risks to your home from fire, then you should consider it money well spent.

Hopefully everyone insures their homes and the contents in them but have you ever thought about what happens with the insurance process should you lose everything in a fire?

It’s not as simple as ringing and telling the insurance company you’ve lost everything so send a cheque!

If your house burns down you are going to lose all your records and rescuing receipts is hardly going to be a priority but documenting your possessions and keeping a file will help in case of burglary or part fire.

The process of trying to remember all your possessions is difficult especially after a traumatic event like a fire or burglary so if you have been thorough in keeping receipts or taking photographs this will be easier and resolved quicker.

We all tend to think a fire won’t happen to us but it might and it would be devastating so think carefully about your options and what you would do if it did happen.