A Southland family’s home was gutted by fire yesterday morning after their dog accidentally turned a stove element on, igniting a pot of oil.

The Mataura blaze started when the cocker spaniel, possibly looking for food, “accidentally turned on a stove element that happened to have a pot of oil sitting on it,” Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) said.

The oil later ignited, with flames extending into the rangehood filters, which absorb grease particles.

The grease caught alight, and the fire quickly spread through the home.

Senior risk reduction advisor and specialist fire investigator Murray Milne-Maresca said it was the first time he’d heard of a dog 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,” he said.

Luckily, the family were able to get out of the house in time, thanks to their smoke alarms, which Murray said saved their lives.

“If they didn’t have their smoke alarms, the outcome of this fire could have been far worse,” he 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.”

“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.”