Police name fatal house fire victim

The two-storey house was well alight when emergency services arrived at the scene. Photo supplied Mike Rowse

A coroner will investigate what led to the death of a man during a fatal house fire in east Auckland.

Emergency services were called to the blaze at a two-storey property in Minerva Terrace, Cockle Bay, just before 7pm on October 20.

Wiremu Arapo, 27, died during the incident. Two other people were injured and were taken to Middlemore Hospital by St John ambulance paramedics.

Counties Manukau East Police acting detective senior sergeant Craig Bolton says police extend their thoughts and sympathies to Arapo’s whanau at this difficult time.

After liaising with Fire and Emergency investigators, police are not treating the fire as suspicious and Arapo’s death will be referred to the coroner, Bolton says.

Police were working with Fire and Emergency investigators at the scene the day after the fire.

Neighbour Mike Rowse was home watching television with his wife and son when they heard the fire break out next door last Tuesday night.

Rowse, who runs local community radio station East FM, says his family “heard some popping going off” and initially thought it was fireworks.

“Then we heard our landlord upstairs yelling and my wife said, ‘Did he just say the house is on fire?’

“We opened up the front door and looked across and could see flames and the smoke drifting out across [the property].”

Fire investigators work at the scene of a fatal blaze that broke out at a house in Minerva Terrace, Cockle Bay, on Tuesday night. Times photo Wayne Martin

Rowse phoned 111 while his wife and son ran up their driveway to see what was happening next door.

He then heard fire appliances arriving at the scene.

“I could see [at the neighbouring property] a fella running around.

“He just had shorts on and was running up the back steps and he was yelling.

“Then I heard my wife say, ‘Get out of the house, get out of the house’, and I then heard him say there’s someone inside. She said, ‘Get out!’

“My wife said he was apparently trying to get a blanket over his head to go back into the house.

“By that time I had got off the phone and came back down to put some shoes on in case I had to hop the fence and go and lend a hand.

“I saw another guy who was fully clothed. He ran around the side of the house and was looking pretty panicked.

“Then the fire service arrived and started getting into their work and putting the fire out.

“Once they had a hose on it, it died down pretty quickly.”

Rowse says he walked up his driveway during the incident and saw six or seven police cars, four fire appliances, and three ambulances in Minerva Terrace.

“They had blocked off the street from roundabout to roundabout.”

He says he later saw the man wearing shorts standing outside the house with his hands on his head and being given a bowl of water.

Rowse says he hadn’t spoken to the people living at the property next door before but often heard them playing music.

“They had only been there about a year and the only time I ever saw them was when they were mowing the lawn.

“I figured they work from home and they just like loud music.”

Rowse says he’s “shocked and surprised” to learn someone perished in the fire.

A karakia was performed at the Cockle Bay address last Wednesday by local kaumatua.

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