A Taranaki firefighter has been flown to Waikato Hospital after suffering burns while battling a suspicious blaze early on Friday morning.
Fire and Emergency NZ were alerted to the fire at a home in Seyton St, Stratford, just before 4.30am, and firefighters remained at the scene for about three hours.
The house was fully smoke logged when crews arrived and there were reports people could be trapped in the burning building so reinforcements were called in from Eltham and Toko.
The volunteer, from the Stratford brigade, had entered the house wearing breathing apparatus to search for any occupants.
* House, shed fires in Taranaki
He was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital by St John ambulance before being flown to the burns ward at Waikato Hospital by the Taranaki Air Ambulance.
Taranaki area commander Pat Fitzell, who attended the scene, said a neighbour had reported there might be people trapped inside the house.
“Of course we always take a bit more of a risk when we think that there maybe inside a structure,” Fitzell said.
The firefighter, who had recently joined the brigade, suffered burns to his hands, shoulders and arms, he said.
“It’s just blisters to his shoulders and hands really and his arms are quite red.
“You actually can’t say it’s not bad because every burn is bloody bad especially when it’s one of your own.”
Fitzell said what caused the blaze and how the firefighter was injured were under investigation.
“They have entered the structure and obviously it has been hot and we will investigate what actually happened inside.
“There’s lost of things that can happen like flash-over and all sorts of stuff so we don’t want to pre-empt anything.”
Fitzell said the injured man was in the thoughts and prayers of all Taranaki firefighters.
“I have been up with him and stayed with him until they loaded him on the plane.
“We will support the family in whatever way we can as well.”
The incident had shaken up other firefighters at the scene and Fitzell said there were measures in place to support them as well.
“They are a bit shell shocked really, the Stratford boys, but they will support each other through this.”
The house suffered significant damage in the blaze, windows were smashed, charred furniture littered the inside rooms, loose wiring hung from the blackened ceiling and wallpaper was peeling away from the walls. Melted plastic guttering dangled from the roof.
The fire was being treated as suspicious and the cause was under investigation by police and fire safety officers.
Andrew Cotter, specialist fire investigator, said he was trying to identify where it had started but because all of the internal doors were open the flames had spread throughout the house.
“Around the kitchen area is where we are focusing our investigation,” Cotter said.
“When firefighters arrived there was really heavy smoke and a glow near the kitchen area.”
He said if the house had working smoke alarms the damage might not have been so extensive.
Detective Chris Henry said as the cause of the fire was unknown it needed to be investigated.