-- A pitbull named Jack can expect to be treated to the best dog roll for life after saving a Northland family from a devastating house fire.
Two adults and three children fled their blazing home on State Highway 12, 5km east of Kaikohe, about 8.30pm on Tuesday after being alerted by Jack's barking and pawing at the back door.
Takarei Montgomery, a butcher by trade, said the fire started in the bathroom at the rear of the house. With no mains electricity, lighting in the 1930s weatherboard home was powered by generator - except for the bathroom, where the family used candles.
He believed the family cat, Bubbles, had knocked over a candle left burning after the children had taken their baths.
Jack was inside at the time with Mr Montgomery, his partner Vania Le Noel, and their children aged 5, 6 and 12, who were preparing for bed.
"He just kept barking, like a cry for help. We didn't smell the fire but he did."
Jack is now being looked after royally by whanau near Horeke, South Hokianga, where the family is also staying in the meantime.
"He's the king for the rest of his life. He's earned his dog roll," Mr Montgomery said.
It is not the first time the 11-year-old pitbull has saved someone from a fire - four years ago, when the family was still living in Auckland, Jack raised the alarm when a neighbour's house burnt down.
Bubbles was found "freaked out" and cowering under the house yesterday. Despite her suspected role in the blaze, the family cat is not in the dogbox.
"I'm not upset with the cat. It's all good. The main thing is that the family's safe. That was the priority," Mr Montgomery said.
"Big ups to the volunteer firefighters and our neighbours, and all the people who stopped to lend a hand."
The only fatality was a kitten whose charred remains were found as relatives helped sift through the wreckage.
Neither belongings nor the house were insured.
The worst losses were mementos like the family photos that had been hanging on the wall.
It is likely the house will have to be demolished. The family had already been on a Housing New Zealand waiting list for seven months.
Maria Fuller, an aunt of Ms Le Noel's who lives across the highway, said the kauri and rimu home with puriri foundations had been in the family for generations.
Mrs Fuller had yet to break the news to her mother, who now lives in a Kaikohe rest home. "She spent the first years of her married life in that house. She'll be very upset."
Kaikohe fire brigade deputy chief Wiremu Matene said firefighters arrived to find the family fleeing down the drive and the back of the house well ablaze. Two fire engines and a tanker from Kaikohe, plus an appliance from Okaihau, doused the flames but stayed for more than two hours dampening down.
While there were smoke alarms in the house, they did not have batteries. It was lucky the dog had alerted the family.
"If the fire had started at 2am when everyone was asleep, including the dog, it could have been different."
However, Mr Matene was pleased the family did the right thing by evacuating quickly.
Anyone who lived in a house without mains power and where candles were used for lighting had to be extra vigilant about making sure smoke alarms were working.
Cat starts blaze, dog saves family - Local News - Northland Northern Advocate