Auckland chef Phillip Clark rescued an unconscious stranger by jumping over the fence of his morning home on Sunday after discovering smoke while driving to work.Photo/Brett Phoebes
An Auckland restaurateur said his Sunday morning commute included running from hastily parked cars, jumping over tall picket fences and dragging unconscious strangers to safety as her home caught fire , he was still shocked.
“She wouldn’t be around in a few minutes,” chef Philip Clark said of the ordeal, explaining that the house was engulfed shortly after he arrived at the scene of the Morningside blaze.
Clarke spoke to the Herald yesterday in the kitchen of Kingsland Social, and the newlyweds and father of three still managed to pull off a full transformation.
His 2-year-old son was in the car seat behind him, and Clark’s new father-in-law was also in the car after Clark noticed an unusual smoke pattern while driving on Western Springs Rd around 7am.
“Oh, it didn’t move low and slowly like BBQ smoke,” he recalled as he got closer.
By the time he got home, it was obvious that something was wrong.
“I just pulled the handbrake in the middle of the road. I had to jump over the fence because [the gate] being locked.
“The lady was lying unconscious in the doorway.”
When Clark woke the half-dressed woman and helped her pull her out of the house, she yelled for her dog.
But it was too dangerous to go into the building and look for them at the time, Clark said.
His wife, who married Tuesday, had been driving behind him, so she was with the woman when Clark ran down the long driveway to see if there was another house on the street.
“Sure enough, there was another house,” he recalls. “This lady [inside the second house] terrified. She was already fast asleep. “
Firefighters arrived shortly after.
Video of the blaze showed flames shooting from the house and huge plumes of black smoke rising from the blaze.
Fire and Emergency NZ officials declined to provide information on the incident due to the ongoing industrial action.
A police spokesman confirmed officers were called to a house fire on Western Springs Rd about 7.20am.
“All occupants have reportedly left their homes safely,” the spokesman said.
“One person is being treated for smoke inhalation and it appears they were taken to hospital by ambulance.”
A St John Ambulance spokesman said two vehicles were dispatched to the area at 7.24am and one suffered moderate injuries.
The Herald understands the woman remained in hospital last night.
Clark said he didn’t know what happened to the woman – he left to prepare the restaurant’s Sunday brunch after emergency services took over.
He described the woman, believed to be in her 40s, so incoherently that she was unlikely to remember anything.
“It all happened so fast. I just reacted,” he said, adding that it wasn’t until later that he risked his life — endangering his family and business — to help a stranger.
“I didn’t really think about it at the time, but I do now, and I’m a little shaken to be honest.”
Clark said other cars kept passing by. Considering how fast the fire was spreading, he had no doubt that it could be deadly if he did.
“I don’t regret it,” he said, before politely suggesting to end the interview so he could go back and complete the brunch order.
The contractor was stabilizing the badly damaged property when the Herald visited yesterday afternoon.
They told the Herald the owner was still in hospital and the property was “considered very dangerous” due to fire damage.
The house was visibly burned, with most of the windows shattered, and a strong smell of smoke wafted through.
A neighbor said he saw the fire before heading to the church and described seeing “plumbing smoke” coming from the burning house.
“When I saw it, firefighters were already at the scene trying to put it out, and I can imagine they did a good job, the fire looked raging.”