Rhodes escape as Matakana dream home goes up in flames

A long-time benefactor of local fire brigades got to see first-hand the fruits of his largesse when firefighters rushed to quell a blaze at his own home last month.

The founder of local civil construction company Rhodes for Roads, Warwick Rhodes, and his wife Katie, had a lucky escape when fire engulfed their Matakana home in the early hours of May 20.

It is believed an electrical fault in a coffee machine in the kitchen triggered the blaze, which quickly spread throughout the northern wing of the 600 square metre house on Anderson Road.

The couple, asleep in the southern wing, were oblivious to the fire until exterior lights unexpectedly turned on and woke them at about 1.45am.

Realising something was amiss, Warwick opened the big heavy wooden double doors to the bedroom and was immediately confronted by a wall of smoke.

It was only when the doors were open that he heard a smoke alarm.

Warwick headed towards the northern wing to discover the source of the blaze and witnessed “big angry flames” coming from the kitchen.

He headed back to the bedroom and dialled 111 before making a hasty exit through the smoke with Katie.

“We had a very good response from the volunteer brigades. Warkworth was here first and then Mahurangi East turned up to assist and then Matakana,” Warwick says.

“It was very relieving to see the flicker of red lights come up the road. They got there very fast, you could have timed them with a stopwatch.”

Despite the prompt response, the northern wing suffered extensive damage to the kitchen, two lounges, a dining room and an eight-seater movie theatre. The rest of the home suffered smoke damage.

An investigator told Warwick if the double doors to the bedroom had been open, then he and Katie might well have died due to smoke inhalation.

The couple only moved into the house last September, after spending 40 years at Point Wells.

Fortunately, many precious family photographs were still safely in boxes in an office.

Goldfish in a pool in the front foyer have also survived. There was no one else in the home at the time.

Repair costs for the multi-million dollar home are estimated to be in the region of $1.7 million.  

The Rhodes are well known for their community service, particularly their support for local fire brigades, which they have supported financially and with water carts. Rhodes for Roads has made a point of employing volunteer firefighters and allowing them time off to attend to firefighting duties.

Warwick recalls a dinner last October when the Warkworth brigade celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Many of those he ate with came to put out the fire at his home.

“They are amazing. We are very grateful,” he says.   


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