House fire in Palmerston North

  • 03/09/2015
(Laura Macdonald / 3 News)
(Laura Macdonald / 3 News)

By 3 News online staff

There's been no confirmation smoke alarms were taken out at a Palmerston North state home where a fatal fire took place this morning, but Housing New Zealand says 11 were installed late last year.

Five people remain in hospital and one has been discharged following the fire on Exeter Cres early this morning.

An investigation has begun into the fire, in which a child and an adult are believed to have died.

More than 20 firefighters were called to the blaze at a two-unit property just before 3am.

Sherry, a resident who lives a few houses down from the home, said she heard "noises and banging" outside when the fire had started.

"I saw flames and I ran outside, but I couldn't do anything.

"They're a lovely family. I see the kids and they used to always call out to me and that," she says.

The question over smoke alarms had her urging people to make sure they've got them installed.

"Please, please family – smoke alarms, please. C'mon, today. Someone said 'I haven't got a smoke alarm' and I said 'get one today'."

Police, the Fire Service and the ambulance service were called to the scene, while a number of others - believed to be part of the same extended family - were taken to hospital.

Police put the number of those taken to hospital at nine, however, a hospital spokesperson says it was only six.

A 21-year-old man and a 12-year-old girl are still in intensive care, a nine-year-old and a 13-year-old are in the children's ward and an 18-year-old woman is in a stable condition. Another person has been discharged.

While the investigation is still underway, police say the death toll is yet to be confirmed.

Investigators are to complete a thorough search of the property this morning.

Fire Service area commander Esitone Pauga says it is a "real tragedy".

"I can confirm that we have one confirmed fatality, a young child, and one other person unaccounted for," he says.

He says there were no installed smoke alarms in the house, but firefighters found a box of them in a cupboard.

"The message is really to have good, working and well-maintained smokes alarms and a good escape plan for people so we can avoid this sort of tragedy."

Housing New Zealand confirmed the seven-bedroom home was one of theirs and says while there had been reports smoke alarms had been removed, this has not been confirmed.

A spokesperson says HNZ had last visited in November last year for an annual tenancy inspection.

"At this time our tenancy manager noted that some of the smoke alarms had been removed and some of the alarms could do with replacing.

"We treat non-working smoke alarms as an urgent health and safety risk for our tenants, so we reinstalled 11 smoke alarms throughout the home," the spokesperson said.

The house was due for another inspection in November.

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