Family has lucky escape after cocker spaniel starts fire that guts their Mataura, Southland home

A Southland family has had a lucky escape after their dog started an early morning fire on Tuesday that gutted their Mataura home. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) said the family's cocker spaniel started the blaze after it accidentally turned on a stove element that happened to have a pot of oil sitting on it. 

Once the oil in the pot reached ignition temperature flames extended into the rangehood filters, which absorb grease particles and spread the fire rapidly throughout the home. 

The family was alerted to the fire thanks to their smoke alarms and were able to get out in time. 

"If they didn't have their smoke alarms, the outcome of this fire could have been far worse," senior risk reduction advisor and specialist fire investigator Murray Milne-Maresca said. 

"It spread quickly throughout the home and was well ablaze by the time our first crew got there around six minutes after the 111 calls came in." 

Milne-Maresca said it was the first time he had heard of a dog, who was searching for possible food, starting a fire. 

"We often hear of canines alerting occupants to a fire, but this dog starting a fire highlighted the fact that you just never know how a fire might start in your home," Milne-Maresca said. 

"It really underlines the importance of having working smoke alarms, as well as a 3-step escape plan, because a house fire can kill in less than three minutes. 

"You have to have a way of being alerted to a fire, and you have to know how to get out if the worst does happen to you." 

A Hato Hone St John spokesperson said they responded to the blaze and had one ambulance at the property. 

The spokesperson confirmed two people were assessed by paramedics at the scene and were in a minor condition.