A Pakotai woman who narrowly escaped a fire which ravaged her house on Tuesday night may owe her life to her perceptive pet cat.
Sue Girven, a receptionist in her fifties, was woken by her cat Nosey who was sleeping on her bed, and cried loudly after it sensed smoke coming from another room at the house, about 48km north-west of Whangarei.
Mrs Girven opened her bedroom door and saw smoke filling the living room, then jumped to safety outside the house through the window of another room.
The cat escaped unaided.
She ran to her neighbours' house and called emergency services at around 11.15pm.
Two trucks and a tanker from Kaikohe and a truck and operational support from Whangarei arrived soon after.
Kaikohe chief fire officer Bill Hutchinson, who arrived around 11.20pm, said the Rika Rd house was engulfed in flames when his team got there.
"[Mrs Girven] was suffering smoke inhalation so we gave her medical treatment," he said.
Yesterday morning, the soot and charred black rubble stood in stark contrast to the bright green surrounding farmland. Everything from the house had been lost.
Northland Fire Safety Investigator Craig Bain, who was examining the charred remnants of the house, said Mrs Girven probably would not have made it out in time if it weren't for Nosey.
"The cat is the hero. She needs to rename the cat Lucky," Mr Bain said.
Mrs Girven is staying with her daughter Megan in Whangarei.
Mrs Girven said her mother was resting today and would stay with her until she was "up and running again."
Megan said the "amazing" Nosey jumped out of the window before the fire devastated the house, although they could not find her last night. "We'll probably go back tomorrow to look for her," she said.
Mr Bain said he suspected the fire had started from an overheated wire in a multi-box in the living room.
He said although Mrs Girven had fitted the house with a smoke alarm, its batteries had run out.
"So there's our message. Put new batteries in your smoke alarm. The cheapo $2 ones are just as effective, in fact probably even more effective, than the other ones."