Priest’s house gutted in early morning fire


A Westport priest’s house was gutted in an early morning fire on Saturday.

Father David Gruschow was out with his dogs when the fire started. He came back to a burned out shell, with all his possessions destroyed.

Gruschow bought the house when he moved to Westport three and a half years ago. He is St Canice’s parish priest in the Buller to Inangahua pastoral area.

While double glazing contained the fire within the house and limited damage outside, the interior is a very different story.

“The inside is completely munted,” he says. He is grateful he and his dogs were out at the time.

As his house is uninhabitable for the moment, Gruschow is hoping to move into a housekeeper’s flat adjoining the presbytery until the house is repaired.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand spokesman says four crews were called to the “extensively damaged” Westport priest’s house at 5.23am on Saturday. A passerby had alerted the emergency services.

The crews found the property engulfed in flames and had to call for assistance, the spokesman says.

While it is thought the fire was caused by an electrical fault in the switchboard or in the ceiling above, this has not yet been confirmed. Its cause is still being investigated

The house was rewired a few years ago and was fitted with smoke alarms, says Fire investigator Craig Piner.

“It [the fire] was contained in the centre of the house. It was a good save by the Westport volunteer fire brigade and luckily was spotted early by the passer-by. It could have been a total loss.”


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